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February 19, 2010
The January 19th assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh reads like a very professional operation:
Security footage of the killers' movements during the afternoon, released by police in Dubai yesterday, underlines the professionalism of the operation. The group switched hotels several times and wore disguises including false beards and wigs, while surveillance teams rotated in pairs through the hotel lobby, never hanging around for too long and paying for everything in cash.
Folliard and another member of the party carrying an Irish passport in the name of Kevin Daveron were operating as spotters on the second floor of the hotel when the murder was committed. Both switched hotels that afternoon and dressed smartly to pose as hotel staff. The bald Daveron donned a dark wig and glasses, while Folliard appears to have removed a blonde wig to reveal dark hair.
Throughout the operation, none of the suspects made a direct call to any another. However, Dubai police traced a high volume of calls and text messages between three phones carried by the assassins and four numbers in Austria where a command centre had apparently been established.
To co-ordinate their movements on the ground, the team used discreet, sophisticated short-range communication devices as they tracked their victim.
The Dubai authorities claim there were two teams: one carried out surveillance of the target, while the other—which appears to be a group of younger men, at least as far as the camera shots show—carried out the killing.
Contrary to reports, the squad did not break into Mabhouh's hotel room, nor did they knock on the door. They entered the room using copies of keys they had somehow acquired.
Read the whole thing -- and watch (in three parts) this video compilation of all the CCTV cameras in the hotels and airprort. It's impressive. And the professionalism leads pretty much everyone to suspect Mossad.
There are a few things I wonder about. The team didn't know what hotel Mabhouh would be staying in, nor whether he would be alone or with others. The team also didn't use any guns. How much of the operation was preplanned, and how much was created on the fly? Was that why there were so many people involved?
The team booked the hotel room directly across the hallway from Mabhouh. That seems like the part of the plan most likely to arouse suspicion. It's unusual to reserve a particular room, and not unreasonable to think that the hotel desk staff might wonder who else is booked nearby.
How did they get into Mabhouh's hotel room. The video shows evidence of them trying to reprogram the door. Given that they didn't know the hotel until they got there, what kind of general hotel-key reprogramming devices do they have?
I wonder if any of those fake passports had RFID chips?
Dubai's police chief said six of the suspects had British passports, three were Irish, one French and one German.
The passports are believed to be fakes.
And Mabhouh was discovered in his room, the door locked and barred from the inside. Is it really that easy to do that to a hotel room door?
Note: Please limit comments to the security considerations and lessons of the assassination, and steer clear of the politics.
EDITED TO ADD (2/19): Interesting analysis:
Investigators believe the assassins tried to reprogram the electronic lock on al-Mabhouh’s door to gain entry. Some news reports say the assassins entered the room while the victim was out and waited for him to return, while others say they were thwarted from entering the room when a hotel guest stepped off the elevator on al-Mabhouh's floor. They then had to resort to tricking al-Mabhouh into opening his door to them after he returned.
He said the number of people involved in the operation indicates that it may have been put together in a rush.
"The less time you have to plan and carry out an operation, the more people you need to carry it out [on the ground]," he said. "The more time you have to plan . . . there's a lot of things you eliminate."
If you know that you can stop the elevator in the basement, for example, you don't then need people guarding the elevator lobby on the victim's floor to make sure no one steps off the elevator, he said.
He says it was likely that the Mossad's second in command for operations was in the hotel or the area when the assassination took place and has gone unnoticed by the Dubai authorities.
Ostrovsky said although the operatives scattered to various parts of the world after the operation was completed, he believes they're all back in Israel now. He says other countries are likely sifting through their airport surveillance tapes now to track the final destination of the team members.
He added that the Mossad was likely surprised by how the Dubai authorities pieced everything together so well and publicized the video and passport photos of the suspects.
Ostrovsky said that despite the Dubai operation's success, it was amateurish at moments. He points to the bad disguises the suspects used -- wigs, glasses and moustaches -- and the fact that suspects seemed changed their disguises in the same place. He also points to two of the suspects who followed the victim to his hotel room while dressed in tennis outfits and didn't seem to know what they were doing.
The two seemed to confer momentarily while the victim exited the elevator, as if deciding who would follow the victim to his room. A hotel employee accompanying the victim to his room even glanced back at the two, as if noticing their confusion.
"A lot of people in the field make those mistakes and they never come up because they’re never [caught on tape]," he said.
Posted on February 19, 2010 at 6:49 AM
• 244 Comments
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All of the odd missteps makes me wonder if the culprit is indeed not Mossad, but another actor trying to put the blame on Mossad. Of course it could also be Mossad making it look like another intelligence agency trying to put the blame on Mossad to actually get the heat off themselves!!
wioth others -> with others
Or it could simply be that Mossad isn't as incredibly brilliant as it's cracked up to be, at least not consistently.
Bruce, I think your request to "steer clear of politics" is naive. This was a political hit, and those with an interest in protecting Israel's reputation will tend to question whether this was a Mossad operation. There are no discussions of Israel these days that steer clear of politics.
They did not do that many mistakes. It seems like the main FU was that the police could connect the persons by the phone calls to Austria. I.e. the police probably began checking the surveillance cams, found some suspects (50%), could see where they stayed -> got passport IDs. Then they checked phone calls and found out the coordinated calls to Austria and found the other half of the gang.
Avoiding getting spotted by the cameras is hard, if you disable them or if you run around in hats, you arouse suspicion. You can make it hard for the police to connect the pictures of the disguised persons around the place of the crime with the persons walking through customs but with time the cops can make intelligent guesses. Also, the only thing there is are suspects in disguise and hypotheses, there doesn't seem to be any hard evidence.
Anyway, they got in and they got out before the police knew anything so I would say it was close to as good as it can get. Seriously, even with a completely successful operation some of the participants would be on tape, the difference here is that the police has gone public instead of just informing fellow intelligence agencies, agent cover are just as blown anyway.
Interesting how they didn't care the least about being filmed.
Well, we know it's not that hard for talented amateurs to copy rfid chipped passports, nor is it all that difficult to clone a key card (if the hotel used that) or a skeleton key (if the hotel used that).
Lots of criminal operations could've pulled off getting in the room. Locking from the inside and leaving? Over the balcony to the room below. How private was the balcony? Trees in front? Operation carried out after dark?
The hard parts are having the balls to do it, and co-ordinating the team.
Really, this sounds like a Hollywood Movie Plot come to life.
Has anyone verified that authenticity of the video footage? I mean accurate or not it feels like a very clever little piece of Dubai PR.
Though I did hear on the radio that the UK and France were calling in the Israeli ambassadors for the use of the fake passports which is pretty strong evidence that at least their intelligence services believe it was Mossad.
As an aside I don't see how this shows that Mossad isn't as brilliant as it's cracked up to be. Consider the outcome: target eliminated, agents scattered to ends of the earth, intimidating reputation to help bargain/threaten other enemy organizations and their leaders radically increased. Downside, a harsh talking to from some western governments who may even really approve.
Hiding the fact that Mossad was behind this might simply have lessened the psychological impact of the "Mossad can get you wherever you try to hide" message.
On another point I have to wonder if Dubai security wasn't at least aware of this as it was going done given how quickly this video was assembled and released. In fact if Dubai was tacitly allowing this to occur this video is a very good way to distance oneself from the assassination in people's perceptions.
Re: wonder if any of those fake passports had RFID chips?
Well, the Irish ones that were posted look like the old version (pre RFID) as the bottom of the Harp is shown on the top left of the person's picture... However, the numbers posted look like two older passports (6 digits, missing a letter) and one new passport (8 digits also missing letters).
"The Dubai authorities claim there were two teams: one carried out surveillance of the target, while the other—which appears to be a group of younger men, at least as far as the camera shots show—carried out the killing."
Classic hunter/killer teamwork. Probably mercenaries were involved, in which case it could have been anybody.
The operation may not have been as professionally planned or carried out as many think: "But in many cases, the operatives stare right at the cameras, a sign of sloppy tradecraft and a hurried, poorly planned operation, he said."
BTW I love how Gail is WAVING HELLO to the security camera as she checks in! Anyone else catch that? Inside job, maybe? WTF!?
Please add on the costs side: eleven agents burned. Fully trained operators that can credibly pose for Europeans. They don't grow on trees.
I would think with the room being on the second floor that exiting via a veranda or balcony wouldn't be too hard for a fit individual. What I find interesting is the biggest difference between a real operation and the Hollywood one is the number of people involved and the fact that they didn't care about being caught on camera.
In a movie, a full 30 minutes would be dedicated to overcoming the surveillance - hacking it, displaying fake images etc...
Hmm... After watching the video, I am left wondering why the surveillance camera seems to follow the suspects. Do they have a camera for each person in the area and then automatically follow every person? Or what is going on? I mean, they did not know beforehand that the suspects were suspects, right?
@theDoctor "Interesting how they didn't care the least about being filmed."
And so again we have an exempler that CCTV is not a preventative control.
We have a bottom feeder here assaulting women in elevators. Each assault is caught on the CCTV but he's aware of them and merely keeps his back to the camera during the assault. He has not been caught.
That said. Really good quality image. Better than I've seen in many banks and bodegas.
They didn't *need* to care about being on camera, though, did they? They *were* all caught on camera and some even mugged for them. The result? No one knows who they really are and job done. Operation successful.
Do you mean after she changed appearance? I think she is just adjusting her hair.
"Interesting how they didn't care the least about being filmed."
I think that's making a virtue out of necessity. They're going to be filmed -- at the airport and at the hotels -- and there's nothing they can do about it. So best to design the operation so that it doesn't matter.
"Bruce, I think your request to 'steer clear of politics' is naive. This was a political hit, and those with an interest in protecting Israel's reputation will tend to question whether this was a Mossad operation. There are no discussions of Israel these days that steer clear of politics."
Maybe. I'm hoping for a discussion on tactics. It's rare that we have so much detail on how a professional international assassination is carried out.
"It seems like the main FU was that the police could connect the persons by the phone calls to Austria. I.e. the police probably began checking the surveillance cams, found some suspects (50%), could see where they stayed -> got passport IDs. Then they checked phone calls and found out the coordinated calls to Austria and found the other half of the gang."
I agree that that's probably how everyone was identified. But I don't know if that's a mistake; they probably figured that by the time everything was collected and anlyzed it would be too late.
But, if that's the case, why not just use regular cellphones and call each other directly? What's the benefit of going through Austria on these special communications devices?
Presumably they had a complex code so that their conversations wouldn't arouse immediate suspicion.
"BTW I love how Gail is WAVING HELLO to the security camera as she checks in! Anyone else catch that? Inside job, maybe? WTF!?"
That didn't look like waving to the camera to me.
Wiredog; to bar the door from the outside is trivial, depending on the type of bar. If it's like the one on most US hotel rooms (with a knob on the door and a u-shaped bar that comes across to hook on the knob as the door is opened), affix some string to the bar with a slipknot, close the door with the ends of the string on the outside, pull the string to close the bar, release the slipknot, and viola. Locked room. No need to jump from the balcony.
"The operation may not have been as professionally planned or carried out as many think: 'But in many cases, the operatives stare right at the cameras, a sign of sloppy tradecraft and a hurried, poorly planned operation, he said.'"
I just don't agree with that. I think they decided that the cameras would film them, that they would effectively be burned as international agents for life, and decided to accept that. At that point, they didn't worry about the cameras at all.
Nothing they did in public aroused suspicion; it's only after the fact -- when it's too late -- that the camera footage was compiled.
Efi Focks is writing (http://www.holesinthenet.co.il/archives/8508 - Hebrew, sorry) about an interesting traffic flow analysis pointing at Mossad.
Their web site added a "recruiting" section about half a year ago (https://www.mossad.gov.il/recruit/ in Hebrew. publication dates are on the left, in DD/MM/YYYY format). There were a bunch of openings published there when it originally came out (all dated September 14th, 2009), and since then, silence.
Until February 12th.
The job description reads:
You have the opportunity to create a reality where you will play the center role. If you have daring, wisdom and sophistication, you can affect and carry out a national and personal calling. If you can stir and motivate people, you may be made of the stuff we are looking for. If you have all those, Mossad is opening up to you.
* Academic degree - mandatory
* Varied life experience
* High interpersonal skills
* Original and flexible thinking
* Can work independently and in a team
* High level of foreign language
* International background - an advantage
* Be willing to travel abroad (after a training period)
Efi raised the possibility that they are recruiting to replace the agents that were exposed.
You neglected to mention that some of the fake passports were in fact those of real British citizens with the assassins' photos in place of the real person's photos. CF http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/... (The British government is not amused).
So there is an identity theft angle to as well.
Please add on the costs side: eleven agents burned. Fully trained operators that can credibly pose for Europeans. They don't grow on trees.
You have no real way to tell if 11 agents were burned. I mean for all we know most of the arab intelligence services already suspected these individuals were Mossad. Indeed, that would explain the extensive and quickly gathered surveillance footage: Dubai intelligence knew that probable Mossad agents were in the country and were trying to keep an eye on them from the get go (it's usually much better to monitor suspected but unprovable foreign agents rather than to ask for a new unknown set to be sent). Maybe Israel offered Dubai something valuable enough that Dubai simply turned a blind eye until after the fact or maybe the assassination team managed to lose/distract Dubai security for long enough to achieve their end. There are many scenarios where these were already suspected intelligence assets.
Secondly, I'd argue that it's simply totally impossible to conduct an assassination like this without the host intelligence service acquiring video of your agents. I mean no matter what you do eventually the body will be found and given they have been targeted for assassination previously minimal competence from Dubai security would lead to an autopsy and the hotel surveillance being saved and you can't avoid the fact that your team will be the people around when the assassination goes down (unless they hang out in the dead guy's room afterwards at great risk). Disabling security just creates more risks of exposure.
The 'failures' cited for this operation all seem to be things that make it obvious to the public that Mossad conducted the operation not information leaks necessary for the Dubai intelligence service to get pictures of likely Mossad operatives.
I think this is a classical example of the rule that "Your security is limited by the resources you opponent can recruit".
If your opponent is willing to spend seriously more than you can, they can get you. At least if they know your identity and whereabouts.
(another plug for using Tor. But not for Mac users as it seems Apple managed to break their Tor connections)
Not using a gun is quite clever. It took another day or so before the police treated it as a murder case. Even if the victim had been discovered immediately, the assassins would still have had enough time to make a getaway.
Evidence collected along with the phone calls to Austria, and the cameras, passports (and their pictures)
The main tactic is likely get out of country within a half hour of the hit rendering all the detective risdual traces left behind as irrelevant.
"How much of the operation was preplanned, and how much was created on the fly? Was that why there were so many people involved?"
I also thought it sounded like a rather large group at first. I found myself asking the same questions when I first read about it here:
But that article points out that he had survived three other attempts on his life:
The phrase "failed assassination attempts" cannot enter my mind without myself thinking of Castro. Compared to the Bay of Pigs, probably unjustifiably so, this was a tiny team. I also stumbled on a Guardian article that claims the CIA tried to kill Castro 638 ways. I actually think the Onion News Network has both funnier and more reliable news than the Guardian but here is a link nonetheless:
Peter: Interesting analysis.
Here are two quotes taken from Wikipedia (they're cited from news articles, but I'm not sure about their accuracy):
"Normally al-Mabhouh would have been protected by bodyguards, but their arrival was delayed because the plane was full."
This goes well with the theory that this was opportunistic.
"He had asked for a room with no balcony and sealed windows, so no one could enter other than through the door."
I'm not sure, but this might rule out certain paths of escape (I suppose we have to know what the condition of the windows was after the assasination).
I'd like to ask a question: What is the evidence right now that's making everyone think this was Israel? I'm not asking as a political issue, but everyone is saying that this operation was botched, and I don't understand how (other than being filmed, obviously, but does that actually lead to Israel or any other country?).
As far as I *did* manage to understand, here are the connections pointing to Israel. Please, tell me if I'm missing something:
1. Israel had a motive.
2. Israel has carried out assasinations in the past.
3. Some people have pointed to similarities between this operation to past Israeli operations (and some people say that it's different; I couldn't understand which similairities either side was talking about, actually).
4. The passport connection: the passports are of people living in Israel (again, since these were apparently faked, I'm not sure whether this makes it more or less likely that Israel is involved).
11 people to do what the chicago mob would send one for.
23 people with constant cell phone chatter to kidnap one mullah in italy, these are bureaucracies, extra people on the team just to get thier tickets punched.
Possibly the agents used for this operation were ones where their cover was known to be about to be blown, at high risk of being blown, or already blown.
It's possible the authorities knew they were there, but crucially, didn't know who the target was, as the target was there on a false passport too.
If the authorities didn't know when the killing took place, the risk is in them discovering the body before you've got out of the country.
With regards keys etc.
Mosad are known to get hold of every new lock they can and send them to the labs.
With regards electronic locks they have a few more problems.
Basicaly they trie and get a lock system on trial or if that fails buy.
I've had previous with their activities and have mentioned it before.
The simple rule is DO NOT TRUST YOUR DOOR LOCK EVER.
There are ways you can stop hotel doors being opened easily or quietly if you want but you have to have the balls to use them.
The question that is not sufficiently known is if they "dry runned" befor the hit.
Usually you make a dry run when the target is not in the room to locate and identify ingresse and egress issues and also add monitoring equipment.
In a hotel you usually do this by acting as hotel staff such as room maid, room service or even assistant manager or delivery person. If the target does not come out of their room then you still do it to assess length of response times etc.
When not in hotels or other temporary places it is often done by becoming a friend and getting an invite, making a cold call etc.
What stumps these dry runs is by not responding. Usually there is no law in a country that says you have to acknowledge / open a door (though there might be cost issues if you do not).
Other tricks used are fiber optic cameras though these usually have some very real limitations and can be stopped by simple things such as a chair with a bath towel on it etc.
Most hits that happen in quite places is because the target is insufficiently aware. The more aware they are the more likley the hit will happen in a public place.
"the door locked and barred from the inside. Is it really that easy to do that to a hotel room door?"
Actually, yes. Hotel staff can open any door in any conditions (except for some hardware lock from inside that will require some muscule work to open).
Most of modern hotel locks are simple RFID devices, so they can be opened quite easily by hotel stuff, remotely, by switching off their power supply, etc, etc. I believe they also can be quite easily opened by third party if they know what they're doing.
re: "11 Agents burned"
What, you mean given desk jobs inside the Mossad, a hefty pension, and stuck living in Israel for the next decade or two?
As of yet, none of these people had any covers to lose whatsoever - they came out of the office, they go back into the office. As of yet, nobody's recognized them as people in daily life.
Nothing's been lost there.
They were one suspicious coroner away from this never even being in the news - just some guy who died in a hotel room. Pretty solid job.
RFID passports have been cloned in the past, they provide no extra security whatsoever. I looked at the RFID passport issue about a year ago. The problem lies not in the chip but the fact you can 'downgrade' security checks (like with SSL, switch to a weaker encryption or turn it off completely.)
For a sample of Elvis (THE Elvis) faking an RFID self check-in on Schiphol Airport see the following youtube video:
My compliments to the Dubai police for patching all these video feeds together within 24 hours. They would not have been able to do that (so fast!) over here in The Netherlands.
Very interesting to watch the full CCTV footage.
As shown on there, they had the resources to carry out their mission at any number of hotels in Dubai, and had the communication and capacity to adapt.
They all looked fairly calm given the circumstances, and covered each other in their assigned groups of two.
Professional, politically motivated and well controlled.
@Bruce: "I think that's making a virtue out of necessity"
Thats what I meant. Real professionals that show to the world just how futile cameras are, if you adapt to them.
Embarrassing to all those camera advocates.
The interesting fact I learned is that an assassination organized by a government uses such a large team. In fiction (Day of the Jackal/James Bond/Quiller) it's generally assumed that one person is enough, maybe two. But in real life, a team of eleven. Quite a difference.
Given the amount of attention Israel had given Al-Mabhouh over the last 20 years, 11 agents burned on security cameras may be a tiny price to pay for a successful operation.
Beyond that, what has Mossad lost here? The rest of the world knows their agents can travel the world on fake passports, assemble a hit team in a semi-hostile nation in less than 24 hours, and be out of the country before anyone knows it's a hit. That's not a loss, that's a win for Mossad, which already had a larger-than-life reputation.
Everything used in the operation is disposable--all those passports, phones, and Austrian C&C numbers just vanish. The agents switch to another ID once they're back in Europe, hang tight for a couple months, then go back and become trainers at Mossad's equivalent of Langley.
It's hard to find any serious flaws in the operation, given the outcome.
Hamas, on the other hand, has a major security review to undertake. If Al-Mabhouh did normally travel with bodyguards, what was so important in Dubai that he would be willing to risk a foreign trip without them? Was it just a coincidence that the flight was too full for Al-Mabhouh's bodyguards, or did Mossad arrange a flight with only one available seat? Was the contact Al-Mabhouh traveled to meet also compromised? The hit could become a pretty big rabbit hole of doubt for Hamas security unless they can confidently answer some of those questions.
@peri "CIA tried to kill Castro 638 ways"
huh. and there are only 50 ways to leave your lover...
The thing I don't understand is that reports claim the passports were obvious fakes, with ID numbers in the wrong formats and so on.
Surely a professional intelligence operation can do better than that? I suppose someone can say that the bad passport fakes were themselves a cover, but that's too subtle to make sense....
Also, 11 guys all on site? I don't know how these things are done, but it seems like that's a pretty big number. Aren't they multiplying many security concerns by the number of operatives?
Perhaps this was done by an agency or department that usually doesn't handle assassinations and didn't have the skills to plan and execute it more efficiently?
"That said. Really good quality image. Better than I've seen in many banks and bodegas."
Probably newer hi-res megapixal network cameras, verses the old standard 420 line CCTV video cameras that banks or stores typically use.
After watching the video twice I noticed the report on the attempted re-write of the door lock. I did a search and it looks like the software used was this
It was likely connected to a windows mobile device.
Based on the instructions, their could have been a few things they did:
1) they knew the hotels he was likely to stay in. they could have easily compromised the hotel networks before hand and copied the Vision LockLink data.
2) the engineers back at the spy lab could have discovered a way to reset the lock without the Vision LockLink data (its probably a weekend of work)
3) Vision LockLink probably has a set of generic codes that the users are expected to change once they install the lock system, how many people bother? perhaps thats why their was one fail to reset, they probably programmed their application to brute force based on
potential default keys
I don't know how popular this lock is, perhaps spies walk around with tools to cover the most common locks? I think its more likely they know the hotel lock system before hand, which means that option 1 or option 3 was highly likely.
"The main tactic is likely get out of country within a half hour of the hit rendering all the detective risdual traces left behind as irrelevant."
It's not as easy as that. They need to leave the country quickly, but they also need to land in another country quickly. If it's eight hours to London, the Dubai police have that eight hours to convince the London authorities to arrest them on arrival.
With my previous experience of working in the manufacture of hotel electronic locks, it would not be too hard for a organazation such as Mossad to have the technical knowledge on how to defeat them. For example, one of the locks we made tens of thousands of had a technical flaw that would allow anyone with a properly shaped and modified key card to short out the flexible ribbon connector on the bottom of the lock, and fire the solinoid for the door. When I pointed it out to the designers, they fixed it on the new model, but did not tell any of the customers about the problem.
Each hotel maid has a card that will open all room doors. Depending on the hotels security, the code may change daily, or less often. Some systems allow the maid card to only work once per day, or only inside of a certain time period, with special authorization needed outside of these parameters.
If I was Dubai and I screwed up I'd make some nice HD footage proving my point.
A Reader - carrying something like would arouse suspicions. Though that's a commercial product designed for frequent use - it's easy to build a clone in a less suspicious package.
Far more likely is that a member of staff is missing one of their cards, and is terrified of saying anything, whether it was stolen or they were bribed.
>>The team booked the hotel room directly across the hallway from Mabhouh. That seems like the part of the plan most likely to arouse suspicion. It's unusual to reserve a particular room, and not unreasonable to think that the hotel desk staff might wonder who else is booked nearby.
However, according to the articles, they did not book that room. Rather, they noticed that it was unoccupied so they used it. Presumably they had someone in the lobby paying attention so they could be warned if an actual guest was given that room and they'd clear out.
If CCTVs were not in place perhaps it wouldn't have taken 11 people to do the job. With less "eyes" on them, they could have used less disguises too.
Why do people think video cameras are preventative and failed in this case. The footage is of most value as a detective control in this case, and likely the only reason that the authorities have any idea of how many people are involved and their activity. Except in less serious crimes (shoplifting etc...) cameras are almost exclusively detective and corrective.
@Bruce - all of the operation that was planned was pre-planned. You can't plan an operation after it's happened. Pre-planned isn't a word.
The folks who enjoy reading the details of this hit would really enjoy "Banker, Trader, Lawyer, Spy" by Eamon James.
I just finished reading it earlier this week.
He goes through a history of corporate surveillance work in the U.S., and especially today with ex (and sometimes current) CIA, FBI, MI5/6, KGB, etc agents employed to run private intelligence operations.
Many of them are run quite similar to this hit -- multiple tag teams trading of surveillance of a corporate executive so you don't see a single person tailing you.
It seems odd that there's a face (of a man in a jacket and light blue shirt underneath) blurred out in the video around time 13:42-13:46.
"The thing I don't understand is that reports claim the passports were obvious fakes, with ID numbers in the wrong formats and so on.
Surely a professional intelligence operation can do better than that?"
Why would they even bother? It seems these fake passports were realistic enough to serve their purpose. More authentic passports are probably more expensive, or harder to come by. I'd say it's quite possible that Mossad trains their operatives to make/aquire their own fake passports in the field, so that they are not dependant on a centralized fake passport distribution system.
Well the first thing that strikes my mind is the possibility this might be the work of someone wanting to put the blame on Mossad. Then again it might be Mossad posing for the cameras to send a message. Don't mess with us or else you'll end up like Al-Mabouohsohardtospellouh. But probably neither. There are surely details not uncovered yet that would add depth to the story.
With the hotel lock, my best guess is most of the locks are sequenced - give the next key value, previous one locks out.
They probably moved the key to the next number, and when he arrived, his key didn't work. The one lookout was dressed similar to staff, and could use that distraction to both get close and use the electronic signal to get the hit team there. While the staff tries to "fix" the lock, they get into position. "Staff" opens the door as hit squad converges and pushes the target into the room, and he's a dead man.
One thought of how it could have gone down, since the CCTV cameras seem to be scant on that part of it.
After watching the video, I'm left wondering about the mention that the target's room was chained and bolted from the inside AFTER the hit. How is that accomplished?
Bruce, it's not *supposed* to look like she was acknowledging the camera, but it sure looks like some kind of a signal to me - it happens fairly soon right after she looks straight at it.
These guys weren't doing ANYTHING by accident. Notice how two of them leave together, but then one carefully splits off to go to a different security line.
What if he is not dead? just simply a movie plot story to get him off the radar..
Just a thought, What a good way to keep him alive and away from mosad,CIA or anyone else in the field.
Nice way to stir trouble and make him go bye bye from the front sight of potential hit teams... just another view of things..
1. Many have wondered why eleven people (or more: the video compilation identifies an apparently-female not-"Gail" operative enter a hotel; the passport photographs disseminated show only one woman) were necessary.
2. As Bruce asked above: why require multiple members of the unit to communicate with a separate unit in another country? That would (and did, apparently) only arouse suspicion. Even though that might be acceptable as long as it is only discovered after the completion of the mission it still seems unnecessary.
3. The video asserts that "Peter" (I think) was carrying a suspicious bag upon arrival in Dubai. Did they determine that from the video? The image quality is good but hardly capable of permitting such a judgement as far as I can tell. Was that determined at the airport? If so why wasn't he questioned at the time?
4. Why would an operative take the risk of carrying a suspicious-looking bag to Dubai (of all places) for an assassination mission? What equipment could they possibly need to put in a bag that would make it look suspicious?
5. The video claims that an operative visited a hotel to look for al-Mabhouh and that he left when he determined that he had not checked in there. How exactly did the operative determine that? What do the Dubai investigators think that he did to determine that?
6. The video strongly implies that the hotel has cameras in at least some of the hallways containing rooms. (We see the operatives walking down such a hallway early on when the video claims that they were in the process of identifying al-Mabhouh's room number.) Is there footage from that hallway during the actual entry/assassination?
(I see now that Corvin above also suggested my question 6.)
@Mark J: "Nice when a country's own intel service uses faked passports of real people living in the country. I guess they figure if Hamas kills the real people, the heat will be off the fakers."
Your comment borders on the political, but I'll attempt to answer on the tactical perspective.
Seems to me that, and someone correct me if I'm wrong, that if you wanted to sneak someone into a country with a fake passport, using a passport that could be tied to a history, and therefore afforded the trust associated with that history, would be far more effective and harder to detect.
This is similar to why identity theft (which is simply fraud through impersonation) is so attractive. Rather than create a new identity out of thin air (which likely would have no credit history or rating), they use the trust afforded someone who has a long history of good credit.
Leaving the ethical and political arguments aside, from a tactical perspective it seems more effective and tougher to detect.
As someone else here pointed out already there is at least a moment when the camera clearly follows one of the suspect. In the video posted on Wired's Threat level you can see that at min 8:20. It looks utterly odd to me. Thoughts?
@Bruce " not as easy as that"
True that. Implementation is always the trick isn't it? But the tactic is still valid. Make the information decay faster. With Dubai? I might try to sail or walk out. Try and find foggy limbo zones like Somalia.
@Clive "DON'T TRUST LOCKS'
Since Munich? I don't trust beds.
So what does your typical mossad agent earn? Are they payrolled, jobbers, piece workers? If they are salary, would they be an equivilent of a GS-11/12?
@mark "Why do people think video cameras are preventative and failed"
I'm gonna go out on a limb here Mark and say "WE" don't. But the CCTV concept is (mis)sold to deciders as a preventative control that deter's villians from their villiany.
Besides what hotel is going to boast their security deter's assassins from murdering you in your sleep? How would you even say it? "Our state of the art security system prevented 23% fewer assassinations last year. Book your next holiday with us and bring the kiddies."
Let me get this straight. The U.S. fires a missile at a target from a drone, kills a dozen bystanders and sometimes even misses the target after all-- the western world remains silent. Kind of a "Thems the breaks" attitude. But Israel (assuming it's them) precisely eliminates *only* the target, and that's a crime against humanity. Britain and France are outraged. I'm confused.
@thinking "What if he is not dead?"
After 3 attempted assasination attempts...burn your political enemies, cause discension within and between your enemies and their friends...hmmm plausible.
Thinking...Want a job? We've always got openings for people that can see around corners.
Even with all of the cameras, all of the video data, all of the cell phone data, they still weren't able to stop or prosecute the crime. We waste a lot of time, effort, and money on all of the surveillance equipment for nothing.
@zoro: Some security cameras can be moved around by remote control. Perhaps the security guy(s) got a feeling that something was odd about that person, and remotely steered the camera so that he could have a clear view for a little longer.
Or maybe he didn't even get a feeling; maybe it was random. Most places do not have enough security goons to watch all of their cameras all of the time, but its plausible that at any given time they might focus their attention, for a few seconds or minutes, onto a particular camera where something (anything) is happening.
Britain and France are not outraged about the assassination itself, they are "outraged" that fake/tampered British and French passports were used in carrying it out. Passports are supposed to be serious documents, and governments want their citizens to believe in and trust their authenticity. They don't want the media spreading the idea that its easy to breeze through security on a fake passport, like this team did. So publically they have to pretend to take these fakes seriously, even if they are privately pleased by the outcome of the operation.
And the "outrage" (the summoning of ambassadors etc.) is obviously just political posturing, because all intelligence services use fake passports of other countries in their operations. Undoubtedly some British agent has travelled on a fake Israeli passport before, but they just didn't get caught at it.
Perhaps the real reason for the outrage is that the fake passports were identified and outed to the media, making the international news. I wonder if this was a calculated decision by Dubai to try and embarass the intelligence agency that appears to have carried out a successful assassination against a difficult target, right on their doorstep.
@Craig: Mossad isn't super-human, they're just very good at what they do. Something like this, that reinforces their public image, seems like a great result for them (whether or not it was actually them who carried it out.. I don't have much doubt though because they had the motive, the resources to learn about the opportunity and the resources to quickly respond and plan and execute the operation).
Any chance this is Iranian intelligence? Maybe he burned them in his dealings with them and they sure wouldn't mind putting the blame on Mossad.
It does feel like there was some collusion from someone on his side-- his bodyguards are suddenly held up by a full plane? Why weren't they flying with him? Was Hamas done with him too?
@moo: "Undoubtedly some British agent has travelled on a fake Israeli passport before" - probably not. It's not a very useful document unless you're travelling to Israel. In fact, it'd get you in trouble trying to enter all sorts of interesting countries (see all the people who won't go to Israel because of the trouble an Israeli visa in your passport gets you when entering other Middle Eastern countries).
Another reason for the outrage is the British (and Irish) passports are not fake in that those passport numbers exist and belong to real citizens, but not the people involved in the assassination. Which means these operatives put British and Irish civilians at risk. The Foreign Secretary and Minister of Foreign Affairs get very shirty about things like that.
I think one aspect that is being overlooked here is the way the police handled the release of information. The police pretended at the beginning that they did not know if the passport were fake or not and both Germany and Ireland quickly confirmed they were fake. Then two days later the police release more information proving that the passport were not fake and Ireland and Germany quickly changed their tune. It seems to me that the police set a very nice trap. If Ireland and Germany did not know about the hit before hand, why would they confirm that that the passports were fake when they obviously were not?
That's to me the Mossad clincher. Western governments had been briefed about the operation beforehand and did a poor job of covering that fact up.
Mossad my have achieved it's ultimate goal but I think the real winner here is Dubai. If you look carefully at what information was released when you see a very calculated agenda at play.
The reason one camera 'followed' a suspect was that it was a sweeping camera, ever seen one of those? Ever turned on a TV? It did not follow the suspect exactly, nor did it pass to another controlled camera when they left the field of view. It just happened to be sweeping in the direction he was walking, which it has a 50% chance of doing.
That look more like a hand gesture while she was talking to the employee closer to the camera with the back to the camera than any wave or signal.
I agree with the suspicions of some of the other posters: This looks way too "made up."
Especially if this were to be carried out by a major state or nation-state, the actual assassination would have required only a single person. None of the others would be on the scene and there's no need for all the theatrics.
I'm not sure about some of your assumptions. "They're fake" in bureaucrat-speak is the safest answer to give when they're not sure either way if they're fake or not because the most important thing to them at that point is to deny any official involvement in the hit. It may have been just a reflex response-- i.e. "Of course our country wouldn't be involved in that dirty business so of course they must be fake!" I think occam's razor might apply in this case.
@Erick. Not, I don't think so. Look at the response of Britain. Unlike the other two countries Britain's response was very circumspect..."we're looking into the matter". The normal bureaucratic instinct is not to confirm or deny anything until you know the lay of the land.
They all knew. Britain just did a better job of hiding it.
Website appears to have been set up just to post the linked article. Also article is full of terrible analysis and worse conclusions.
Firstly all of your listed "mistakes" assume that the agents or their bosses cared about their identities being revealed which constitutes 6-7 of your 11 alleged mistakes.
Secondly you seem weirdly obsessed with eliminating your agents after they have done their job. Why so eager to kill your assets? Very hard to meet recruitment targets operating like this.
Why would Mossad ever consider eliminating their team after the job? Regardless of whether mistakes were made or not. Most likely none of the agents will ever leave Israel again, and even if one of them was caught and interrogated there is no reason for that person NOT to simply reveal everything they know. All of the other agents would be safe in Israel and the country would not really care if someone were to 'reveal' that they were behind the operation when everyone already assumes that is the case.
I would suggest you re-read all of the comments on this post which in aggregate have a much better analysis of the operation than your post.
I sent the video to my wife and she burned the sauce to coals while watching it. I took a picture while we aired out the whole house: http://img51.imageshack.us/img51/536/...
I usually follow Bruce, but that post was the most effective
Let me give the unlikely, not sexy, interpretation of this assassination:
Mahmoud al-Mabhouh is under surveillance by, for the sake of argument, the Mossad. Suddenly, they get a chance of a million: He will travel without a bodyguard to Dubai.
Someone in Mossad shows why they are so renowned. He sees an opportunity and dispatches a team to Dubai in haste. Maybe the team already existed, maybe not. Without a fixed plan, they act according to standard rules. Maybe making up the plan while on the ground. Hence all the communication with Austria.
They kill him in a way that would delay police action, right out of a novel and get time to flee.
How to disband such a team, which is now well known all over the world? With YouTube etc.
First, this is the first time this happens, so it might not have been foreseen. Murdering the lot, as is suggested by the coldspy, would really be the worst possible course of action (all those bodies and relatives with questions)
It would be bad for morale, to say the least. A small corrective surgery, some hairdo changes, new identity and a desk or training job. Not that they would talk out of free will.
In Israel they would be hero's anyway, so I do not see an easy outing. And if they took the precaution of changing their appearance before they went on the job, there will be many people in the world that look more like these images than they themselves.
If they knew/suspected that some of their operators were known to other intelligence agencies they could not communicate directly with the rest of the team, hence the Austria phone numbers. Otherwise the local authorities might have got wind of this large operation before it was finished.
Next time they will use one-time phone numbers in different parts of the world.. :)
You're making it too complicated, there would be no reason to inform an outside government of the operation. There are a million reasons for the weird responses regarding the passports. Most likely the aforementioned "whoa of course we didn't have anything to do with this they must be fake" reaction.
At most the only involvement that the Europeans would have is if they have some passport sharing arrangement between countries where they provide blank passports to friendly nations for them to use.
The more interesting aspect is the arrest of the Palestinians, were they perhaps the reason that Mahmoud was in country? A meeting between Fatah and Hamas? Perhaps leaked by Fatah to the Israelis, or discovered by Israel through penetration of Fatah. If the meeting was set up quickly it could explain the supposed rush on the part of the team and Mahmoud (traveling without security)
If there was a meeting why was it arranged in such a manner that they did not have time to take proper precautions? The operation from Hamas' side should be looked at as well, especially since they had the fatal errors on their side.
So, large amounts of cash, lots of highly trained people to create teams (and lots of bench to create specialty teams), victim out of home territory (with or without a small bodyguard).
Overwhelming resources and forces concentrated
against a weak victim.
This type of operation stops when it is not tolerated by the people that run the world. When an actor
is not held responsible, like debit card fraud not responsibility of the bank but of an individual who bears the loss, these actions will happen. The "regulators" (other countries that really run the world) give a free pass to this action, so this is like debit card fraud, the victim bears the cost.
1. With all the biometrics etc, how did they forge the passport so that it works?
2. Were the passports checked properly?
3. What impact will it have on other British, French etc passport holders? There is an implication they are forged.
4. The UK is spending millions on secure passports. Looks like that is wasted.
(Same problem as bank notes. You have to have periodic releases of new note styles in order to make life difficult for forgers)
5. What's the scale of the problem? If its very sophisticated, its one thing. If its simple backroim stuff, its worrying
Wad O Cash, your comments stinks of politics. We're only discussing security considerations here.
@HJohn: "Leaving the ethical and political arguments aside, from a tactical perspective it seems more effective and tougher to detect. "
No doubt. Still, it's ironic that an organization dedicated to the protection of a country is willing to endanger the citizens of that country with no remorse. How many citizens do they consider expendable in the course of protecting the country?
I keep thinking about them getting the room across the hall from Al-Mabhouh. I've run through a bunch of scenarios and I think I have a plausible explanation of how they may have ended up with this particular room.
You can't ask for a specific room number without being suspicious. You can, however, ask for a particular floor. You can ask for a particular view (North, South, etc), near or away from the ice machine, near or away from the elevator, near or away from stairs. Those are perfectly reasonable requests that make you choosy but not suspicious.
They could have asked for a room on the second floor, facing east, away from the elevator and near the ice machine. Or whatever combination gives them the best chance of getting near his room. With some luck, they're directly across the hall.
With a good amount of advance scouting they would have known a good combination of requests that give them the best chance of ending up with a close room. That they ended up with the room directly across the hall can be attributed to luck.
@analysis fail; Your first premise is ludicrous on the face of it. The web site was not created to post a link to this article or story. Check domain registration for the date created to prove how wrong you are on that premise.
Second, I was working on this story a week ago when it first came out, but wanted to examine more of it before I made any posts to that effect.
As for a terrible analysis, I will follow up to say how so? There were plenty of mistakes made by the team, one of them being they were under constant surveillance and knew this. When doing any type of operation such as this the best form is to NOT BE SEEN. The minute you are seen there are witnesses that you must therefore get rid of. Happens in every major crime that has happened in the last 30 years.
Witnesses are usually killed in any operation where the bad guys are seen or could be later recognized. If you mean to say that a murder carried out in such a way is considered OK because somehow it is state sanctioned by the Israelis, then I point out to you that there is no state sanctioned murder that is legal that is carried out by those outside the state of sponsor. I don't care if its a terrorist or not, going to some other country such as Dubai, which is outside of a war zone, to kill a guy without arresting him first or giving him an opportunity to face a court is murder plain and simple. Being seen was only the start of a litany of mistakes made by the team.
I am sorry you can't see it, maybe you should try being a criminal for a change and see how murder is usually treated or maybe carry a few out yourself before you comment on it. I think had you any idea about how that life is you would know just how those things are usually done.
As for eliminating the team, it's a subjective thing. If you want a clean operation that doesn't lead back to you, you need to eliminate the team for that to be assured. That makes it totally clean. Taking them back to Israel won't really cut it. They committed a murder, it's nothing more, nothing less. It could have been something that Israel does as a course of business, but Dubai doesn't consider it so. So the case is murder. Might be a hero to some, but to those who believe in justice, it's murder, and someone has to pay the piper for it.
If you want to spin it to make them look good for it, might as well allow anyone to go out anywhere they please and kill anyone they wish at any time and call them a hero too. They could make a mistake and kill the wrong people, as I am sure has happened many times but never said or reported. Next time you go to Dubai maybe you might be mistaken for the wrong guy and killed. Would you then want the people that did it to get away with it based upon some state sanctioned murder or hero worship? I think not.
As for recruiting killers, well, those people operate under different rules, and as such it's not something you just sign up for on an application and interview. People with such skills kill people because of many reasons, some even like it. The agencies that employ such people usually employ them based upon training or because they work well within guidelines and are able to kill without hesitation and on orders. Screw ups though are not usually tolerated very well. That has always been a given in every type of operation outside of legal boundaries. I would half say that your premise about the need to keep people recruiting is flawed because you don't find people like that in the newspapers or using the classified ads.
@winter, Murdering the lot is not that hard to do. Maybe more questions come up if they suddenly disappear, however they are all now wanted felons, so eventually we will know who committed the crime and what it was about. Some however do not wish this known, so they will think about the possibility of cleaning the operation up. It's just that simple, and to get rid of the bodies is an easy chore, just read up on murders in Mexico or any Central American country of your choosing for a understanding of how such things have been done in the past.
If I was a Hamas big cheese who wanted to get get rid of this guy cleanly, I probably would have wanted to stage it so that everybody believed it was Mossad. Being in Hamas could have made it easier for me to know the guy's plans and even organize his travel in such a way that his bodyguards would be separated from him. There are many possible scenarios here. Also, Hamas is an organization that routinely uses disposable people (e.g. suicide bombers), so exposing your team may not be such a big problem for such a person.
It hasn't been proven that this is any specific organization or country. It could just as likely be a rival nation trying to blame it on Mossad. Maybe he angered the Iranians? Or Hamas gave him up (hence the bodyguard delay) and they farmed out the hit to someone else.
I don't see the "look" that Gail gives the camera.
But the human mind is great at thinking that something is looking at them when it isn't - the feeling that a photo or painting is looking at you, looking at them etc.
Also, I find myself looking at cameras all of the time. I'm sure I look at cameras and don't realise it.
So just by pure chance, there's bound to be a point during the day when I look at a camera. And normally no one would notice, because I've not assassinated anyone and no one has spent hours compiling every piece of CCTV they can on me.
@Mark J: "No doubt. Still, it's ironic that an organization dedicated to the protection of a country is willing to endanger the citizens of that country with no remorse. How many citizens do they consider expendable in the course of protecting the country? "
It also could be possible that whoever did it just wanted to make it look like Israel (or any enemy entity or nation for that matter) had done it. Kill an enemy target, great, and direct their retaliation at another entity, even better.
I don't mean that as a political statement, just as a tactical one, regardless of the entities involved.
I'm not saying that happened, I'm just discussing tactical possibilities.
@Hjohn: "direct their retaliation at another entity, even better. "
I meant "at another enemy".
Some have asked why have everyone communicate through a central person in Austria:
Threat Level says that it is possible a very high ranking official was on the ground observing in order to call off the attack or make last minute changes. It is a much larger security risk to have this official coordinating directly as opposed to going through a command center in Austria.
This official's identity may never even be known by the teams carrying out the hit.
"With a good amount of advance scouting they would have known a good combination of requests that give them the best chance of ending up with a close room. That they ended up with the room directly across the hall can be attributed to luck."
Possibly. The video says that they reserved the specific room, though.
"Murdering the lot is not that hard to do. Maybe more questions come up if they suddenly disappear, however they are all now wanted felons, so eventually we will know who committed the crime and what it was about."
Actually, who really cares? So they can get be decorated?
Here you assume that these are hired mercenaries, that could be anyplace for all their relatives know. If they were, you are probably right.
If they really were agents from some national intelligence bureau, say Mossad, then they have colleges and relatives in close contact.
Pulling this action off and then getting rumors of them being disposed off instead of becoming decorated heroes. Sounds as some morale building would be required?
But you could be right, what do I know? But pulling off such a stunt and then ruining you reputation by killing those who did it for you? Sounds like a waste.
As for planning or the operations being put together in haste. How do you explain the door lock re-programmer or the lethal electric batons? One doesn't just say; Oh by the way put together a team of reliable people that you trust, and take all this equipment through airport security, door lock re-programmers, lethal electric batons or cattle prods, drugs with needles, secure cell phones with a control center in Austria or any of the other devices that have been reported as possibly being used in haste.
That takes planning, and a team at the ready, especially with 11 passports made with pictures to go and disguises at the ready to match the passports and an operational plan.
Also how to know when the target is leaving at a certain time and all with a team ready to go at the drop of a hat to terminate him?
What about the targets security? How did he suddenly travel or be willing to travel without a security detail when he had already been accosted on several occasions and had gotten away?
An operation of this size takes proper planning. The door lock re-programmer would have had to be known for that specific hotel or they would have not been able to reprogram the locks. They did at least try to do it, so they had to have equipment for that very purpose for that very door lock made by that manufacturer.
They also had to know at least several ways to get at the target, and it is assumed that they planned on the murder taking place at the hotel. Why else stake everything on that room across the hall?
Nothing on that scale can be planned with a reasonable expectation that they would get away with it without proper planning for that operation. So to assume that it was carried out in haste seems faulty on the surface of it.
As for who did it, well that is not really known for certain at this time. It could have been done by anyone, but again, teams such as this are not readily available for just anyone to hire. Maybe one guy or two would be, but an entire team of eleven people, not counting the relief stakeout team that came in at the end, which also included another woman, could be had at the drop of a hat or for just any nation or any crew be it Iran or anyone else at the drop of a hat.
I think you are making numerous mistakes in your analysis of the situation.
"When doing any type of operation such as this the best form is to NOT BE SEEN."
Sometimes the best way to not be seen is to hid in plain site. Had their plan worked as it seems it was planned, then murder would not have been suspected and nobody would have ever reviewed the tapes. All of these so called witnesses would never even know that they had witnnessed anything at all. Jumping around in ski masks and ninja outfits would be sure to draw attention to you though.
"Witnesses are usually killed in any operation where the bad guys are seen or could be later recognized. If you mean to say that a murder carried out in such a way is considered OK because somehow it is state sanctioned by the Israelis, then I point out to you that there is no state sanctioned murder that is legal that is carried out by those outside the state of sponsor."
I do not understand how these two sentances are at all related. I suspect you are trying to slip politics into the discussion.
As for killing off the agents to tie up loose ends, it just doesn't make sense in this situation. Mossad isn't the mafia, they are state endorsed and therefore have some nice advantages. Regardless of the crimes that they may commit, Dubai can't just drag Mossad off to jail, nor can they drag the agents involved off to jail if they are unable to get at them. Killing agents after the fact does exactly nothing. All of the evidence will still exist, and fingers will still be pointed at Mossad, probably even moreso.
Regardless of what you think of them, Mossad is not the Mafia, and does not operate like your standard criminal organization.
@Matt from CT:
"The folks who enjoy reading the details of this hit would really enjoy "Banker, Trader, Lawyer, Spy" by Eamon James."
After reading your post, I did some searching for this title and will be purchasing it in the next couple weeks. Thanks for the recommendation.
Just a heads up for other readers interested, the title is actually "Broker, Trader, Lawyer, Spy" not "Banker".
> Undoubtedly some British agent has travelled
> on a fake Israeli passport before
I agreed with a lot of your comment, but this point just sticks out like a sore thumb. It's obvious that there are some nations whose passports are not desirable to use in these kinds of operations, and Israel is one of them.
Unless, of course, the agency in question is trying to "frame" Israel. Which would look silly, considering that everyone knows the Mossad uses foreign passports (as shown in 100% of all botched cases).
A fake Israeli passport certainly would not be a desirable passport to use... unless you were an agent situated in Isreal. MI5/the CIA/whoever most certainly have people spying on the Isrealis, they certainly spy on us so it's silly to think otherwise. To say that a British agent has never once, in the history of modern day Isreal, used a fake Isreali passport seems incredibly unlikely to me.
At about 11 minutes into the vid they go into "I Spy" mode, ( 1960's -Robert Culp, Bill Cosby ), running around with tennis rackets. I wonder what was in the rackets, probably cool spy equipment. Of course, the tenny raquets were just props to give an excuse to stand around in the hotel hall, just like "I Spy". I bet these guys watched that show.
So what brought the victim to Dubai? And he is stuck in a crummy hotel, not in a safe house or a shred of evidence of organized contacts. I can smell the cleaning products in the video hotel hallways just watching. So from the looks of it, Hamas is driving around in old rusted pickups and staying at Motel 6 begging for ciggys in a place where they are not really wanted. What brought this guy there.
@jgreco -Sometimes the best way to not be seen is to hid in plain site. Had their plan worked as it seems it was planned, then murder would not have been suspected and nobody would have ever reviewed the tapes.-
It was at first suspected that it was by natural causes that the target died, however upon autopsy it was learned that it was in fact a homicide. I think no matter how you look at it, it is understood that an autopsy would reveal anomalies such as they have described in various reportage. Some of that reportage has said electric shocks behind the ears and the legs or torso area, some have said drugs. In the aftermath video you can see one guy come out of the hallway and stand by the elevator wearing what looks to be like heavy yellow looking rubber gloves. The rest of the team that came out after were absent any gloves.
At any rate assuming they knew that an autopsy would reveal cause of death, it would then be a natural conclusion to look at the security tapes would it not? Or is that only done in the United States?
In the UK surveillance cameras are everywhere, and I think there have been numerous attacks where the security tapes have shown the facts of the case afterward. This is one of the major reasons for having them. They are not really preventative, and more for the after the fact analysis. In this case I think the case is solved based on the review of the security footage.
As for who was involved or who was behind it, this has not been ascertained 100 percent as of today.
I also was not trying to comment politically on the merits or the realities of the situation, I was however stepping off the plate to say that this was really just a murder investigation, and no matter who was involved or why, the fact remains a murder was committed.
I apologize if you thought I was overstepping into a political argument.
As for the Mossad being much like the Mafia, I think you mistook what I was saying. Murder, no matter who commits it or whatever the reason is, is not a state sanctioned act that one can just go commit because they just so happen to have a government behind them, at least not yet, even though this seems to be the way things are going.
As such, it's now just a criminal act, and because it is, and also because of the nature of the situation in this case, the team itself now becomes a liability. This is of course my opinion, but again, how would you react if you led the team? There will be sanctions of course, both politically and other levied against those that took those steps, be it government, intelligence or otherwise, since Dubai is not a war zone and these were not military people dressed in uniform carrying out a state sponsored action.
As for eliminating the team, granted some would say that this would be a bad thing, but again this will or at least has some political ramifications to it, and once the country of sponsor is known, there will be ramifications for that country for such a brazen act. Not only that, but you have all those names used that are now complaining and living in fear of retaliation for the act. How to justify all of that? The team obviously screwed up, it doesn't take rocket science to see it, mafia or government sponsored, murders or assassinations are supposed to NOT be viewed, which is why we still discuss the grassy knoll to this day.
As for dragging them off to jail, we do live in a civilized society, and despite being at war on several fronts, I think Dubai has made the claim that they have helped many other nations in the fight against drug trafficking and global crime, so they have asked Interpol to help, and that request has been granted. Be they in Israel as hero's or not, they will never leave Israel again if that is where they end up being found.
As for the Mossad having advantages, I would say they do not enjoy such advantages as you may think. Mossad agents have been prosecuted in the NL for passport fraud, and I believe they had some problems in Canada not too long ago as well. I do not believe that advantages exist for people who are seen or identified in the commission of felonious acts. Maybe if they had a diplomatic passport, but again, they were traveling on forged passports and were not in uniform when they carried out the hit, therefore it was murder plain and simple. My opinion of course.
"As for planning or the operations being put together in haste. How do you explain the door lock re-programmer or the lethal electric batons? One doesn't just say; Oh by the way put together a team of reliable people that you trust, and take all this equipment through airport security, door lock re-programmers, lethal electric batons or cattle prods, drugs with needles, secure cell phones with a control center in Austria or any of the other devices that have been reported as possibly being used in haste."
Nobody ever said that these people were not employed/enlisted, trained, and prepared before these events. What does seem likely however is that the exact events where not arranged ahead of time, the exact time of the future mission was not know. It is even possible that the exact agents to be used was not known. Agencies find these sorts of people and "keep them on retainer" so to speak.
"Also how to know when the target is leaving at a certain time"
Presumably they had the man under surveillance.
"and all with a team ready to go at the drop of a hat to terminate him?"
When you train and pay professionals to be ready, you can pretty sure they will be ready. And who knows, maybe Agent A was sick with food poisoning that day and Agent B had to fill in for him.
"What about the targets security? How did he suddenly travel or be willing to travel without a security detail when he had already been accosted on several occasions and had gotten away?"
You would have to ask him that. My guess is he messed up, and paid for that mistake with his life.
"An operation of this size takes proper planning. The door lock re-programmer would have had to be known for that specific hotel or they would have not been able to reprogram the locks. They did at least try to do it, so they had to have equipment for that very purpose for that very door lock made by that manufacturer."
If we are in fact dealing with an organization such as Mossad, I don't think it is unreasonable to assume that they have such devices already at their disposal for any number of locks. Not knowing the specifics on the device, it is impossible to speculate on it's effectiveness, complexity, or generic-ness (does it work on different kinds of locks, or is it meant specifically for locks by that maker?)
"They also had to know at least several ways to get at the target, and it is assumed that they planned on the murder taking place at the hotel. Why else stake everything on that room across the hall?"
They saw an opportunity, they took a chance, and it paid off. We are told that somebody tried and failed numerous previous times so it's silly to assume that these people are above taking chances.
I could go on, but I'd rather go home and start my weekend early. My general point is though that you are assuming much and creating arbitrary limitations on their actions as you see fit. These people are professional, their job is to work as a team, improvise, and take chances. If they had had complete and absolute control over the situation then they could have done the task far more cleanly and easily. Instead they waited in the background until they saw an opportunity, imperfect as it was, and they took a chance. That it worked can be attributed to training and luck.
This looks very well done to me. Very cool, collected, and professionally done successful hit, except they got found out, which I'm sure was a potential liability, but not the desired outcome. Call it acceptable risk, presuming based on the inherent value of the target.
Break it down into old fashioned METT-T
mission essential tasks
possible /probable COAs
strength / personnel
fields of fire
cover and concealment
avenues of approach
Planning and prep of combat orders
Inspections and rehearsals
line of departure
1. Eliminate Target cleanly and quietly in a way that could arguably be of natural causes etc.
2. Get in and out of country un-noticed and safely etc.
All those criticizing the team for having so many people involved are fools. Consider the environment in which they are operating In order to not arise suspicion. Keep in mind your terrain: a hotel / lobby areas- people are coming and going all the time. If you have a guy stationed in the middle of the lobby with a high-and-tight reading a newspaper all day, that's probably going to get noticed.
Enemy: does he have a security team, buddies on speed dial? What are his probable courses of action - what's he doing here, what hotel is he going to?
This is tricky that they lost the use of these agents, but were all of them Israeli? One must assume they didn't plan to be detected, and Mossad (presuming it was Mossad) didn't intend to burn their agents, I'm impressed that the Dubai security service found this out... and so quickly. (chaining the door on their way out is a beautiful touch, which would throw off most investigators in my mind... "The guy just stroked out safely and secure in his room."
Also, the covert communications equipment looked like maybe Ipods/ mp3 player look alikes?
To those questioning the passports:
They only needed to fool the Dubai govt, they're not returning to GBR to get the passport authenticated by the UK's "secure passport super authentication system". They're attacking a 3rd party's authentication system, then traveling to a 4th party country after the operation. At this point it's just simple forgery, or fraudulently getting a real passport from the govt whatever is easier.
I didn't bother looking up registration data, I can however see that the only content on your site is the post under discussion a contact page and an about page. So I can only conclude that the website whose only substantial content is the post on this subject is a website set up for the purpose of hosting the post. I don't even see how that is debatable at this point. Maybe you should post some more stuff and then we can say that the site deals with a broader subject matter.
The goal is not "NOT BE SEEN" it is "don't get caught".
You seem to be confusing operational difficulties/complexity with mistakes made by the team. Perhaps looking at it from another perspective would help. If you had to carry out the operation what would you have done?
You have a target that you wish to murder (to use your term). This target is normally effectively impossible to gain access to for one reason or another. You learn that the target will be alone and in an unfamiliar environment for a short time, very soon. You know that this may be your only opportunity to murder the target for another 20 years. The environment where the target is going to be located is a high surveillance area where it is impossible to be for any extended period of time without appearing on camera, or looking highly suspicious as you avoid all areas of camera surveillance. You have a number of available resources (agents). What do you do?
1 You could just ignore the opportunity, accepting that it would be too difficult to accomplish.
2 You could gather some resources and put them in position in hopes of creating/exploiting an opportunity if it presents itself.
3 Ideally you would have ample notice and time to set up a perfect opportunity for the operation, unfortunately not available in this instance.
Assuming that you choose option 2 above you look at your available resources and decide who to put in place given the time constraints. This would be decided based on location/ease of access to target area. Skills of resources, surveillance experts, wetwork agents etc. Which resources have available tools such as fake passports/identities that can be sacrificed for the operation. Other tools needed, disguises, electronic lockpicking tools for hotel, drugs for killing the subject discreetly etc. As well you must consider that any and perhaps all of these agents will have their covers blown due to the intense camera surveillance of the area, the target being alerted and calling in local authorities, or the local authorities noticing something, or to the truly bad luck of a particularly suspicious customs agent happening to discover one of the fake passports. Given the possibility or even likelihood that the agents would be discovered you would have to choose people that are willing to give up travel outside of the safe haven of your home country, and that you are willing to lose the use of internationally.
Team chosen, you put them in country with the least likelihood of being discovered. (ie no quickly thrown together disguises/passports at customs) and scatter them to watch the likely areas the target will move through (airport and hotels)
Once the target is located you need to follow them to the hotel and discover the room they are staying in. Requiring the use of your surveillance team who must follow the subject closely enough that they can not take routes to avoid cameras. (for instance stairs/service elevators to avoid elevator/lobby cameras)
Alternatively, the target may put himself in a position to be killed before getting to the hotel. Though it is highly unlikely that a person under threat of assassination would decide to say wander into a dark alley and hang around waiting for someone to come along and off him. However, your team would want to be prepared for such an eventuality just in case.
Once the target has been located you need to gain (ideally) private access to them so they can be eliminated and you can leave the country before the murder is noticed.
In this case the operational expertise of the team allowed them to gain access to the room opposite and then to the subjects room without raising the alarm of the assuredly suspicious target. After gaining access they were able to kill the target in such a way that there was no outcry, and when the body was discovered death was assumed to be of natural causes.
After the mission was accomplished the team was able to exit the country and most likely make their way back to the safety of their home country.
The murder itself was not discovered until a number of days after whereupon the investigation was started. This led to the subsequent video footage, cellphone records and records of tampering with the hotel room lock. If events had proceeded differently it is possible the murder would not have been discovered until after some or all of the electronic records had been purged.
Now if you look at the operation as a whole the equation is thus:
- 11 agents internationally compromised
+/- organization associated with murder of target in Dubai
+ target eliminated
- operational techniques revealed (probably not a big concern here)
the outcome of that equation depends on how highly you value the various items of course.
For a national actor with a large number of agents the loss of use may not be a great concern. For a smaller organization this could be a huge blow.
Being associated with the murder could be positive or negative, if Fatah was involved then losing the goodwill of Dubai would likely be a hard blow, but Israel isn't likely to feel much effect from the same thing. From a purely operational perspective it can only be considered a good thing as it reinforces the power of your organization and thereby discourages actions against you.
Target eliminated, importance of target has to be determined by organization.
Operational techniques being revealed, nothing here that should concern anyone in the intelligence community as everything they did was a well known technique already. Perhaps if it is a small actor such as Fatah the extent of the operation would come as a surprise. But under the assumption that it was Mossad then nothing should be a surprise here.
And you're still killing team members, once again a bad idea. Only seen in movies for the very reason that noone would want to be in an organization that did such a thing since there is no real cut-off point for "cleaning up". How far up the line are they going to eliminate to keep it secret? The team leader would wonder if he was next as soon as he offed his team. And his boss would wonder the same thing and so on. As such everyone down the line is going to start keeping 'security' to make sure they are safe. In the end there would be sworn statements coming out of sealed deposit boxes every day. And you'd be training an entirely new intelligence agency every time. It's not smart from a security perspective or economically.
Also i am trying not to make any judgments as to the morality of state sponsored murder, if anything I said above suggests that I approve/disapprove of the events in question it was not my intent.
The police work seems very organized and gives a
great narrative of what people did. Vids, call logs, door reprogramming logs, passport records, locations, date-time logs of the assassin team and victim, flights.
--@jgreco --Nobody ever said that these people were not employed/enlisted, trained, and prepared before these events.--
I think that was the premise that the original article on Wired took from the interview with the former Mossad agent.
--Presumably they had the man under surveillance.--
So you presume as well as I do.
--When you train and pay professionals to be ready, you can pretty sure they will be ready. And who knows, maybe Agent A was sick with food poisoning that day and Agent B had to fill in for him.--
Another presumption on your part..?
--If we are in fact dealing with an organization such as Mossad, I don't think it is unreasonable to assume that they have such devices already at their disposal for any number of locks.---
Another assumption. There are a myriad of locks and devices in use today that would boggle the mind. Each one works on it's own software, and it's own programs. What works for one does not always work for another. To assume they had the correct lock re-programmer in hand at the ready is luck at best and assumption at worst.
--Not knowing the specifics on the device, it is impossible to speculate on it's effectiveness, complexity, or generic-ness (does it work on different kinds of locks, or is it meant specifically for locks by that maker?)--
So just "take your best shot" is what you think the team took? OK..
--They saw an opportunity, they took a chance, and it paid off.---
Plausible. Does happen too.
--We are told that somebody tried and failed numerous previous times so it's silly to assume that these people are above taking chances.---
--I could go on, but I'd rather go home and start my weekend early. --
Understood. Have a great weekend.
--My general point is though that you are assuming much and creating arbitrary limitations on their actions as you see fit.--
And as I have seen you are doing the same exact thing above, presuming and assuming.
That is how people come to conclusions however isn't it?
--These people are professional, their job is to work as a team, improvise, and take chances. If they had had complete and absolute control over the situation then they could have done the task far more cleanly and easily. Instead they waited in the background until they saw an opportunity, imperfect as it was, and they took a chance. That it worked can be attributed to training and luck.---
I disagree. Luck is good for some things, but in other things luck only shows your lack of training to be precise. And because you rely on luck you end up failing in the end - which they in fact did. They killed a guy and got caught doing it. I would not call that luck, I would call that stupid, especially for a team of supposed professionals to get caught by the most basic of premises, that of the surveillance camera. There are criminals who do better jobs, some are even 20 years old lol..
Enjoy your weekend and thank you for responding to my posts.
They were identified not caught.
And at that they were only identified visually, not by name, country of origin etc.
They accomplished their mission, with all parties accounted for. They obviously gave zero shits about being filmed (either by deeming it a necessary trade-off, or not seeing it as any type of problem in the first place). They obviously knew exactly what they were doing and how to do it. They were more than notably calm and collected under what must have been intense pressure/paranoia. They were all out of the country by the time the body was even found, let alone viewed as a possible homicide.
Only time will tell, but so far, they beat the pants off of Hamas, the Dubai authorities, and Interpol, as well as bypassing at least 4 major nations' passport security measures (and even more nations' airport security) without even being identified, let alone caught.
So please, enlighten the dimly lit... why all the critical commentary of the operation's execution?
Sounds to me as though this thing went off without even the slightest trace of a hitch.
It also sounds to me like a lot of you watch too many movies.
A Picture != An Identification
I mentioned that they were only identified visually. Maybe there is a better word for that but I can't think of one at the moment.
>> and a desk or training job
Okay. I'm impressed with the Dubainese...with all that survellience and famous/rich people siphoning through their town and FEW, apparently, unauthorized uses of their data? I've a yank's point of view I know but I've never seen a Bradalina leak from Dubai on TMZ.
@Dirk. Great post..Thank you for taking the time to write it. Your premise throughout your post shows your precise thinking on the matter at hand.
I hope that my response will be at least half as good as yours.
--I didn't bother looking up registration data, I can however see that the only content on your site is the post under discussion a contact page and an about page. So I can only conclude that the website whose only substantial content is the post on this subject is a website set up for the purpose of hosting the post. I don't even see how that is debatable at this point. Maybe you should post some more stuff and then we can say that the site deals with a broader subject matter.--
That was the intent of the site, to post about other things, this one was however the first story, and as I said I was working on it for a week when I finally decided to post on it. I then did a search for more relevant data and this site came up. I then posted and linked. It was not my intent to post here at all, rather to post and send the link to my FB friends and twitter followers which I did prior to coming here.
More of course will come as the site is just starting.
--You seem to be confusing operational difficulties/complexity with mistakes made by the team. Perhaps looking at it from another perspective would help. If you had to carry out the operation what would you have done?--
KISS, or keep it simple stupid rules.
I would have killed the target on the street, it would have looked like a robbery, and I would have made off with the targets car and then dumped it and flew home. (As was seen he did in fact go out of the hotel to eat or shop or whatever.) While that is also an assumption on my part, because I do not know the nature of the city itself had I just flown in, I would have come in a month earlier and did a proper recon of the entire area, then left and come back a week or two ahead of time. I would have staked out the airport when I knew he was flying in. (they did, and an assumption is they knew when he was coming in) and then I would have waited for the robbery moment and finished the job post haste. However on further reflection, I would have to also think of other issues as well, but the point is I would have tried to keep it simple.
--The environment where the target is going to be located is a high surveillance area where it is impossible to be for any extended period of time without appearing on camera, or looking highly suspicious as you avoid all areas of camera surveillance. You have a number of available resources (agents). What do you do?--
Again, KISS rules. Better for me, better for the people I work for, and better for all involved if it looks like a simple street robbery or carjacking attempt.
My opinion of course.
The need for a highly skilled and numerous people involved only makes things more complex than they need to be. Did the Russians not kill a Russian in the UK not too long ago by using radioactive substances in his meal at a restaurant using one guy for the hit?
--1 You could just ignore the opportunity, accepting that it would be too difficult to accomplish.--
With this team that should have been the course of action in my opinion. They not only compromised themselves, but also those above the operation. Just look at all the fallout so far? I doubt people who hired them or put them into action are happy at this point with how it came out. Not only that, but retaliation is now the order of the day for those who are in the line of fire. Thus this one retribution killing will cause scores of retaliation attacks. So how is that making any employer happy?
--2 You could gather some resources and put them in position in hopes of creating/exploiting an opportunity if it presents itself.--
Albeit not on camera or YouTube which is where allot of these videos end up.
Again KISS rules..
---3 Ideally you would have ample notice and time to set up a perfect opportunity for the operation, unfortunately not available in this instance.--
That is an assumption. Haste makes waste does it not?
Where is precision? Out the window over a need or an overwhelming need for the target to be terminated? And what cost over the long term will that be? How many people will now die because of this act?
--Assuming that you choose option 2 above you look at your available resources and decide who to put in place given the time constraints. This would be decided based on location/ease of access to target area.--
Which means planning. This was not really done in that much haste, as there were and are too many variables that cannot be accounted for in a hasty operation, thus no haste, rather very well planned.
--Given the possibility or even likelihood that the agents would be discovered you would have to choose people that are willing to give up travel outside of the safe haven of your home country, and that you are willing to lose the use of internationally.--
Which means in effect your agents are expendable. And if they get caught or killed that is just the nature of the business you are in. Which is why the premise of eliminating the team now comes into play. If they were expendable at the start of the operation, then they are still expendable at the end correct?
Or are they getting a pat on the back for exposing everyone and the entire operation to the world and causing anarchy and more death because of it?
I highly doubt any pats on the back will be forthcoming.
---Team chosen, you put them in country with the least likelihood of being discovered. (ie no quickly thrown together disguises/passports at customs) and scatter them to watch the likely areas the target will move through (airport and hotels)---
Again planning took place. The original article made the claim that it seemed to be a hastily put together operation, I disagree. The more variables in any given operation, the more planning and precision needs to be put upon those undertaking the operation in order for it to be successful.
--The murder itself was not discovered until a number of days after--
It was I believe the next day.
---If events had proceeded differently it is possible the murder would not have been discovered until after some or all of the electronic records had been purged.---
Your forgetting the smell of the corpse and housekeeping knocking on the door despite the sign to "do not disturb," which happens in every hotel I have ever been in...The smell the next day would have alerted them either way.
--- 11 agents internationally compromised
+/- organization associated with murder of target in Dubai
+ target eliminated
- operational techniques revealed (probably not a big concern here)
My opinion is failure. Operational techniques being revealed is a HUGE concern, so much so that many agents and countries work very hard to keep those techniques under classified wraps, or do you not listen to Dick Cheney these days lol?
--Israel isn't likely to feel much effect from the same thing.--
I disagree. Retaliation has been ordered, and has been reported in many articles around the world by those who are in a position to extract that justice. I would say that those who are about to die are of a primary concern or at least they should be. The fallout from this operation will be felt for a very long time, or as long as it is talked about or kept on the upper front pages of blogs, FB accounts and various other technologies.
And this is the responsibility of those who gave the green light to the operation as well as to those who gave the go command at the very end. They knew they were compromised and did it anyway based upon, and this is an assumption on my part, that no one would care, that the world would rejoice at their act, or that no one would pay attention and post their act online or talk about it. They took a big risk assuming, and they screwed up the entire operation because of that risk. Level headed people would have seen the damage already committed and factored in the smell of the body, the amount of time after it that the act would be discovered, the eventual autopsy results, and the resulting video footage of the team, and said no way, call it off and red light it and wait for a better time when all actors are not on camera or in a country that would get very pissed off when what they did came out.
--Operational techniques being revealed, nothing here that should concern anyone in the intelligence community as everything they did was a well known technique already.--
Techniques yes, we have seen all of them have we not? However faces to go along with techniques makes for a very bad day for everyone involved. That is why to this day people still talk about JFK..Techniques shown yes, but no real faces or video with faces of the people inside the book depository or the grassy knoll, just the techniques of the bullets going in and coming out and resulting death after it. That is precision. Or is that suddenly out of fashion these days in favor of heroic YouTube videos and pats on the back for a job well done?
--And you're still killing team members, once again a bad idea.--
I am killing or removing liabilities, much like they did, they removed a liability. He must have become a liability to someone, else why remove him for an act committed in 1989? Come on, that is a pointless act, as no one would give two sh!ts for an act that happened that long ago. There had to be more, he had to have become a liability for someone to have taken such steps, and as such the team is now a liability - unless of course those responsible don't care about being known. And if this is so, then why all of the disguises and fake passports? Just go in with your real passport and name and off that SOB and fly out and wait for the heroes welcome and keys to the city right?
--Only seen in movies for the very reason that noone would want to be in an organization that did such a thing since there is no real cut-off point for "cleaning up"--
11 people, not including the last team in, which consisted of one guy and one woman, and the operational command who set it up. Maybe 15 guys on a bad day. That is not movie stuff either, Mexico eliminates at least 10 times that amount every few days..And how many of those were liabilities?
--How far up the line are they going to eliminate to keep it secret?--
Depends on how bad the fallout becomes doesn't it? If say 100 or 200 people get killed over it along with bombings and other retaliation attacks, I would say at least it would go up to command level or just below it. And it wouldn't be a bad idea either, as I am sure someone is thinking about it right now. If I can think it, someone else can think it. Doesn't mean they will do it, just means that they will think it. You wouldn't be much in that business if you didn't plan such events either.
--The team leader would wonder if he was next as soon as he offed his team.--
That is the nature of the business itself. There is no real trust, never has been, and everyone is expendable, everyone..
We have learned that much in the course of the last 50 years have we not?
--As such everyone down the line is going to start keeping 'security' to make sure they are safe.--
That is the premise I state which you disagreed with earlier calling it ludicrous or some such thing. I only hypothesize on the eventuality of what people must be thinking at this very moment. You would be stupid NOT to be thinking of eliminating at least some members of the team now, and some later on down the road as a precaution. That is not movie stuff either, those are facts that we witness everyday around the globe. That is the nature of that business.
--In the end there would be sworn statements coming out of sealed deposit boxes every day.---
And this does happen, just look at sites such as wikileaks, which is in a way a safe deposit box for some. If it were me I would have already had that box opened and envelopes placed. There is no trust, there is no real security but the security you give yourself. In the game it is EVERY MAN for himself. Team work is only operationally speaking, however after the job that is when trust becomes a serious issue, and you are only as good as the security you place around yourself. The minute you start trusting people, even those you work for, is the last day you trust them.
And that is in some way also operationally speaking. Trust is for the dead or soon to be dead. Have we not learned this already?
Do we not have history to back us up on this?
--It's not smart from a security perspective or economically.--
If it is a nation then economics are the least of their worries. Or do we not see that in the United States already? In this case it is a trust issue, and if it were you, would you trust getting into a car with a few guys to meet later on in some far away place to discuss your up and coming meeting? I highly doubt it.
---Also i am trying not to make any judgments as to the morality of state sponsored murder, if anything I said above suggests that I approve/disapprove of the events in question it was not my intent.---
Your post was spot on great. I loved every minute of reading it, and will re-read it many times over to gather everything in it you said for maximum effect. Thank you for responding to my posts in such a way.
Of course not condoning a hit. But fascinating to "witness" a real world, professional hit. Not a movie-plot. Though the large scale of course looks a bit movie-ish.
Though through personal experience I know how much reporters can misunderstand and falsely report "facts"
A specific hotelroom could be room 412 (for example) or a room with a view that way, a bit in the middle of the hallway on the fourth floor.
A few comments based on what I know;
1. Those who suggest that this kill squad would possibly be summarily wiped out by their own superiors are flat wrong. Should this occur, the entire Mossad would disband from the inside out and the structure of Israeli intelligence would deteriorate, causing generations of damage. Ridiculous concept. You must understand the lengths that Israel goes to in order to get their men back home if they are compromised. They've turned over prisoners and spies, delivered antidotes, paid millions of dollars in fines in order to get Mossad operative back into the homeland. That trust that your country will do all that in can through backchannels to get you home safe is all a black operative has to begin with. Destroy that trust and you destroy the entire power of your apparatus to begin with.
2. Those who suggest that using eleven, or eighteen (or likely even more) people indicates an unprofessional job are wrong. In fact, what it indicates is a state sponsor, because no one is able to operate independently of state with this level of coordinated participation. Come on people. The waterfall method of surveillance --- throwing twenty, thirty, forty surveillance men at a target --- is considered one of the best ways to track someone without them having any idea. Of course, it is rare that you have that manpower available. But there are clearly benefits to a large team. First, should one element (let's say one surveillance team) be exposed or caught, they won't know all of the details of the operation. Second, you don't have the "execution team" waiting around for hours in clear sight, etc. The reason go on and on. You've got a technician, his only job is to figure out how to get through the locks. He spends every day at home in Israel with a unit of other technicians who buy up every new lock system (whether card based, key based etc.) as soon as they come onto the market and spend all their time trying to break them. Once they figure it out, they add it to their database and that lock is forever crackable. You've got multiple surveillance teams who filter in and out so they don't become conspicuous (i.e. Why are those guys with tennis rackets sitting in our front couches for eight hours?)
3. The actual operation may have been quickly planned. In fact, I would guess that it was quickly planned. But the team was not quickly trained, that is a guarantee. It is possible in fact that this was the first and last operation for this team after years of training. It is likely that the most of the team members do not know each others real names. In terms of haste, the last thing to remember is that the Mossad would abort this mission at the first hint of trouble. If one team member were questioned or stopped by police, I would expect the mission to be aborted. But an aborted mission does not mean that the target is safe. Far from it. This are state sponsored units. They have endless money. They'll wait, they'll try again, they'll wait, try again, wait, try again. They'll spend millions of dollars and wait for a decade if need be. It took Israel over twenty years to get Mughniyeh. But they got him.
4. The central command router in Austria. I say router because it is doubtful that their "center" would be in Austria. It is more likely that a router was in Austria, which was further encrypted to communicate with another location which will never be known. Why use this central command center? Well, as mentioned above, I'm sure the Mossad took some education from the CIA's rendition experience in Italy. The Italian police culled records from phone towers nearby the kidnapping, and they found a bunch of phones that were calling each other over and over again, and were all in the same vicinity, and all happened in a specific time period. Using that data analysis, it is easy to identify which phones were the agents phones. So the Mossad probably tried something different --- communicating over phone with a command center --- and communicating with one another on the ground not via cell but using highly encrypted, short wave communication devices (basically expensive walkie talkies).
5. What happened. I'm going to go with this... they used disguises for the operation itself because they knew that the hotel was under surveillance. They knew they would be on camera, especially when it came to the hotel lobby, elevator, and floor where the mission took place. They attempted to use disguises for this portion in order to not be connected all the way to the airport (perhaps via town car/taxi trip logs) and therefore their passports. They did fail in this aspect of the operation. It's not a huge failure in this instance, however, because they succeeded in their mission and got out of the country. They likely then dropped or destroyed their documents, picked up new documents (still not their actual identities clearly) at their next locations, and boarded new flights back home to Israel soon after. I would be very surprised if they are not all safely enconsed in safe houses in Israel as we speak.
7. Who are the actual Mossad operatives? I'm sure they are not exactly pleased that their photographs have been splashed all over the place. A few things are clear, and one is that there are now hundreds of people who know who the operatives are. After all, Israel is a small country. These people had to grow up in neighborhoods, go to schools, etc. At least a few of their friends, family and classmates know who they are. What their real names are. We may even learn their real names eventually. In fact, I expect a few books to come out in about ten years. But for now, don't expect much. Because those operatives grew up inside Jewish/Israeli ideological bases --- the vast majority of the people who know these operatives are from within the same ideological base in Israel. They believe that the Mossad is the sharp end of the spear and that they are on a battlefield, every day, against people who would want to wipe their country off the planet and execute every man, woman and child in the country. When you believe that, you don't give up the identities of your own people on a whim.
One more thing. Coldspy, with all due respect, some of your suggestions are inaccurate and others are plan wrong.
Coldspy: "I would have killed the target on the street, it would have looked like a robbery, and I would have made off with the targets car and then dumped it and flew home."
1. Why would you kill someone in public (where there could also be eyewitnesses and cameras you are not aware of), then drive around (where you could be tracked by cameras still)?
"I would have come in a month earlier and did a proper recon of the entire area, then left and come back a week or two ahead of time."
1. Glad to hear what you "would have" done. Please explain to me how you would have come a month earlier if you didn't know the target was traveling until a few days before the travel occurred? If a target such as this was dumb enough to broadcast his travel plans up to a month in advance, he would have been dead ten years ago!
I want to say that the British government don't *really* care about the passports, they are just covering their backs to keep the public happy.
In this operation, it wouldn't be The Mossad acting alone.
Infact, its my opinion that multiple agencys across the world were in on the operation.
The Mossad carried out the actual operation, but the logistics, as well as the passports themselves were obtained by multiple global agencys cooperating with The Mossad.
The British, we couldn't say nothing when the news went out on BBC.
We had to *look* annoyed and call in the Israeli ambassador for the cameras.
Off camera its likely our own intelligence agency MI6 had knowledge of the operation before the assassination.
If they didn't , i'd like to know why?
---. Those who suggest that this kill squad would possibly be summarily wiped out by their own superiors are flat wrong. Should this occur, the entire Mossad would disband from the inside out and the structure of Israeli intelligence would deteriorate, causing generations of damage. Ridiculous concept. You must understand the lengths that Israel goes to in order to get their men back home if they are compromised. They've turned over prisoners and spies, delivered antidotes, paid millions of dollars in fines in order to get Mossad operative back into the homeland. That trust that your country will do all that in can through backchannels to get you home safe is all a black operative has to begin with. Destroy that trust and you destroy the entire power of your apparatus to begin with.---
As I said trust is for armchair people. Sorry to burst that bubble, but trust doesn't exist these days - if it ever did. Or do we not have history to back that up? Ever been to Mexico or Honduras or any deathbed country? Trust doesn't exist. When it does people usually wind up dead sooner or later. Those are facts, and if you wish I can point to dozens of articles you can read where trust ended up with a fatality or more.
Let me interject here something else. You assume automatically that this was a Mossad operation, and while many already believe that, it has not been proven 100 percent as of yet. I speak from a freelance standpoint, and because of that, freelance operators are more at risk for termination over failed operations. If this was in fact state sponsored and Israeli, I would interject that this was the act of cowards and not patriots or professionals. Since when did 11 against one unarmed guy become professional? Or when did it become the act of professionals? I can see one guy one target, but 11 guys supplanted by 4 kill team members who were able to easily overpower one guy alone is the act of cowards. That is my personal belief, and state sponsored or not, it is a cowardly act to bum rush one lone guy no matter who he is or was, then kill him over some perceived problem. That Sir is the act of cowards and not professionals.
Had it happened on Israeli soil and under the guise of a war then OK, it was a military operation that resulted in a death of one guy. But 11 against one? Just where does that fit in with justice? Why not carpet roll him and rendition him to a court of jurisdiction and give him his day, allowing him to be judged by people who are employed for that purpose? Since when did 11 guys or 10 guys and one woman become judge jury and executioner? And how is that even morally right?
--After all, Israel is a small country. These people had to grow up in neighborhoods, go to schools, etc. At least a few of their friends, family and classmates know who they are. What their real names are. ---
My very next point. People know them or at least some of them, so their identities will probably be eventually known. Therefore the operation failed correct? You may have killed the target but you let yourself and that of your entire team be seen doing it. Plus you now have red notices out on your entire team, and some of them probably wanted to continue to work, so you have that to deal with as well. Not only that, but the innocent victims in all this, which is the passport holders names which will probably get them killed or worse, allow them to live in abject fear of being killed now or later when they travel, if they are ever allowed to travel again. So you have that issue as well to deal with.
At the end of the day the entire operation is exposed, and everyone now knows just how these operations are conducted, and will no doubt be able to plan around them, thus techniques are exposed and ruined. Pretty huge problems in my book.
---1. Why would you kill someone in public (where there could also be eyewitnesses and cameras you are not aware of), then drive around (where you could be tracked by cameras still)?---
As I said I would have reconnoitered the areas around the entire city looking for places that would not be under such surveillance. I may have hit it off or I may have found no real good place to achieve those goals, thus i would not have operated in that theater.
---1. Glad to hear what you "would have" done. Please explain to me how you would have come a month earlier if you didn't know the target was traveling until a few days before the travel occurred?---
I think it has been said in other articles that his travel plans were known months in advance, however my take on it is that someone in his inner circle gave him up, and thus his plans were known well in advance to go to Dubai. They didn't know where he would stay because that was a personal choice, and one in which he felt he could make on his own for his own security, but again that is an assumption. However if it was known that he would travel there months in advance then I would have been able to recon the chosen area.
Had it not been known then sometimes you are confined to only a few ways to do it. Was their way the best way? I am not too sure that it was. They had him leave in a car, they gave the car details to the control center, thus they knew what car he was in and potentially where it was going. Could they have done it street style? I do NOT know. All I am saying is that what they did in fact do was screw the operation by getting themselves on cameras everywhere they went. That was operational stupidity, and if you think it wasn't then you must believe in free love lol...
As for him being dead 10 years ago, I think it has been reported that this was one of many attempts on his life, this time however it was successful for them, and for what it is worth, my book calls it a cowards act. 11 against one, 4 against one at the end, that is the act of cowards. At least give him a chance to defend himself if it was in fact a state sponsored deal. Let him go to court and defend the accusations.
Of course if your in Israel and he is found there I suppose it is a different deal for him. I don't really know how I feel on the subject, at least for now I feel that he was overpowered by an larger force, and alone, and knew not what was coming, but that is the nature of the game they all play. So if he knew it, and chose not to have a security detail with him then so be it.
Great post Green, your arguments do stand up quite a bit, and is cause for much reflection.
Sorry for the personal rant which was included.
>Just a heads up for other readers
>interested, the title is actually "Broker, >Trader, Lawyer, Spy" not "Banker".
>In fact, what it indicates is a state
>sponsor, because no one is able to
>operate independently of state with
>this level of coordinated participation.
The book named above does outline corporate surveillance using teams that size, using former three letter agency operatives from around the world. Big dollars so generally reserved for multi-billion dollar merger and acquisition deals where a spending a hundred thousand a day in order to save hundreds of millions or billions by avoiding an unnecessary bidding war is a good investment.
A few odd things... It's easy to watch the annotated video, and follow along, but there's an incredible amount of editing that went on to produce it. I mean, how many video streams from how many places did they have to go through to extract these little gems, and how did they manage to find and edit them in the time available? There must surely be many hundreds if not thousands of multi-hour recordings to go through in a place the size of Dubai.
Some of the annotations are very hard to support from the actual video. For example at 15:34 it says "Peter leaves the hotel after giving the room key to Kevin", but there's no way that can be known from the video. Well, of course they won't have published all the video or other sources, but still... Maybe Bruce should have a contest to put different stories to the same video.
One assumes ample fingerprint and DNA material has been collected, and it may take some time to try to match that against other sources. But probably some interesting stuff will come out of that; I imagine these people have all travelled widely before.
But as for blowing all the team members - well certainly not on the basis of their grainy pictures. I mean, I think I know "Peter", and maybe "Gail"; certainly their video images and walking stances are close enough to people I know. But the ones I know are both Americans. I guess it's just a remarkable presentation from a country not particularly known for its intelligence or policing skills.
A question about disguises/facial recognition software - in the passport photos of the assassination team posted here - http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/... - eight of the ten men are wearing rectangular glasses, at least five of the men have some significant growth of facial hair (with the rest possibly having a few days growth, hard to tell), three are essentially bald, two have very short hair, two have short hair, and the remaining three seem to have longer and very similar haircuts. Does any of this play a role in the efficacy of disguise and/or thwarting facial recognition?
Israel has been caught before acquiring passports for this type of activity... and not every country rolls over and says "tickle my tummy".
I suspect it is rather like the French state terrorist attack in their territory about 20 years earlier - small does not equal stupid.
So, false video? Or just assumed eventually the fuss would die away...?
So we've got two competing options:
1) this is an uncharacteristically ham-handed operation by Mossad, or
2) this is an uncharacteristically well-done operation by someone else.
I'm excluding 3) it was an uncharacteristically ham-handed operation by US, UK, Russian, Chinese, etc agencies on the grounds that they don't have any clear motive.
My money is on 2) and the "someone else" is Fatah. They have a double motive in accomplishing the killing (not only do they eliminate a top rival, they make Hamas look weak and unable to defend its leaders), they draw on essentially the same geographic advantages as Israel and can probably get at public records to forge passports, and they probably also have agents and contacts in Hamas that could tip them off to al-Mabhouh's solo travel arrangements.
Of course, it's also possible that this was an intra-Hamas affair and someone thought al-Mabhouh was a threat or a liability. The factionalism within Hamas is well documented, and it would be easy for another Hamas leader to arrange for his bodyguards to be left behind.
I don't know what all these fuss is about, on mistakes in the operation to take out Al-Mabhouh. Personally I think it is well executed tactically given the circumstances as I undertstood it. Could the Dubai authorities or enforcers have done more to protect the victim from being assasinated? They will probably have to identify the operatives as suspicious when they step into Dubai. Considering that the operatives are very skilled, they will probably notice if their movements are being watched or followed. And since they have so many of them working on a target, they most probably can also afford to lose operative(s) (e.g. send them away) that are being identified as suspicious and continue with their operation. How many countries would have thought that there can be so many working on killing someone. High unusual. This just shows that there exists very powerful organisations that can string together assasination in a foreign country, involving large number of operatives, relatively easily. This in my mind is more disturbing than seeing news that a Hamas leader is been gifted a bullet in his head by a foreign sniper or something. Because it seems that such mission can be carried out with successfully (for me it's a success, although the price to pay is not something I will even remotely suggest I comprehend) even when the hotel the target is going to stay is not known definitely beforehand -> smaller opportunity window.
@Thinking "What a good way to keep him alive and away from mosad,CIA"
Well, the CIA would know they hadn't killed him, the Mossad would know neither they nor the CIA killed him (Assuming here that either the CIA would let Mossad know they'd carried out Mossad dirty work or Mossad has moles in the CIA or both) so Mossad would keep looking for him.
By being officially dead would make it harder for his bodyguards to operate and protect him, and easier for rivals in his own organisation so I fail to see how this would help.
Great posts/analyses. Very interesting story.
I have a funny feeling that others have mentioned, it seems like there's something complicated behind the scenes missing from the story.
More than one intel agency from another country say in North America?
Who could get Dubai's intel agency to look the other way?
These guys were burned the minute they changed hotels. It seems like there was something going on behind the scenes if the Dubai folks are watching for Mossad.
I agree with others that the video presentation is too slick. Its like a face saving thing for Dubai. Like honest its safe to visit us folks.
I wonder what Dubai got in return?
The tennis players for sure would have had security up there wouldn't they? I'd be wondering about them wandering around if I were watching those cameras. And the surveillance guy with the cellphone wandering back and forth wearing a hole in the carpet, if that doesn't say "sentry" what does? I'm not saying they aren't good, I'm saying if the Dubai folks were good they'd have caught on after all the hotel/disguise stuff. I wonder if someone didn't deliberately look the other way.
As an aside.
I sure would like one of those fancy talky-walkies, spose they'll be on the market anytime soon?
There has been some comment about the electronic locks and the device used by the team members.
First off there are not myriads of electronic lock manufactures out there that do hotel systems.
Secondly there are even less cheap methods of connecting two microprocessors up, usually they are standard protocols built into one of the less expensive low power micro controlers (thus about 5 serial protocols).
Likewise with connectors etc.
If you think sideways for a moment how many different "universal remote controls" have you seen Casio have even put one in a watch...
Normally all you would need to talk to a lock is the right connector with 4 wires (+V SO SI GND) back to the box, inside you would have a small SM-PSU to generate +V etc level shifting for signal levels and a microprocessor with apropriate software to drive the lines.
You might also have a USB interface to programe the box.
You have to remember that Hotel electronic door locks have to be expensive looking but cheep to buy, and low cost to run. Thus the largest part of the BOM is going to be on the case by a long margin. It would surprise me if the total BOM for the electronics is more than 10USD. As for security it's physical not electronic the protocol on the connector is likley to be very very insecure. You have to remember that batteries run out and guests get locked out of their rooms easily. Thus it is likley that the Hotel Security or front desk have a little "instant open" gizzmo which is the same for every hotel that has that lock type. It is likley to be programed off of the Frontdesk unit and have little more than a hotel number to stop it being used in another hotel.
Thus it would be more than reasonable to have a "universal hotel lock" device.
To be honest I'm very surprised that nobody makes one and sells it via the Internet in the same way you can buy "phone unlocking" boxes and "Cable TV bypass cubes" etc etc.
I guess that is because Hotel Security is generaly so low there is not realy the market for it.
Just a sampling:
Home > Products > Search : hotel lock 6,669 Products
IC Card Lock
Applicable card: SIEMENS? IC card. Power supply: 4 standard AAA alkaline batteries. Battery life: About 18 months in normal state, depending on both usage and climatic conditio... view detail
RF lock, Mifare lock, hotel lock, Temic5557 lock, card lock, electronic
A. System Construction ONLENSE set of locks, computer, management software, Encoder, T5557 card or Mifare-1 card, energy saving switch B. Multiple functions ***** levels of co... view detail
Hotel card key system
H602 card key system is a well-designed package of product for five-star hotels. The mechanical Mortise Lock passed 3-hour fire rating test of UL standard as well as its electronic... view detail
Hotel Door Locks
Features: 1) Contactless smart card lock: a) Can save 224 records b) Adopts the patented technology of TEMIC®, MIFARE® c) Is the first computer c... view detail
Combination Door Locks: Features: 1) Material: zinc alloy, stainless steel, brass 2) Various types of plate available upon request: chrome, satin chrome, brass, stain brass, s... view detail
Luxury Hotel Door Lock
Orbita is one of the reputable CARD OPERATED LOCK and HOTEL LOCKING SYSTEM manufactuers for the hospitality industry in China,established to offer the best quality products with pr... view detail
Classic design, 5-latch ANSI Mortise with deadbolt, offer maximum security and convenience
Lock reception desk software is compatible with Germany Fidelio Company PMS system
Adopt Siemens encrypted SLE4442 contact smart card as keycard to ensure security
1. Wireless system and works standalone, easy installation and maintenance
2. Perfect keycard management, 14 types function cards under 5 management levels with clear authority
3. User-friendly front desk software is compatible with Windows OS and DLL interface is available
4. Current latest 864PCS unlocking records can be stored and tracked in the lock, security warranted
5. With encoder controlled by software to encode, erase, encrypt and set the smart cards, each smart card is programmed with different access and function to the lock; Each guest keycard can only access designated room within valid lodging time; Lost keycard(s) can be invalidated easily and instantly
6. Alarm function: Long beep alarm will warn the guest or waiter when the latches of the lock is maliciously operated or the door is not closed properly by guest
7. Reliable micro-CPU system, modularized design, stable running and easy maintenance
8. Passage mode (always-open) can be set for meeting-room use, no need to insert card for each opening
9. Lost keycards can be invalidated instantly
10. Deadbolt indicating: As deadbolt draw out, LED light will flash in red to show someone in the room, avoid waiter or waitress incautious disturbance
11. Made of high quality zinc-alloy and stainless steel, mortise has anti-pick latch and hardened deadbolt
12. Keycard can be printed with hotel logo/name information to enhance hotel image and brand
More Product Features
Model NO.: SLE4442
Standard: CE, ISO9001: 2000
Type: Smart Card
Company: Cocylock Technology
At any rate as I said, there are a myriad of companies and devices that are used throughout the hotel/motel industry worldwide.
Hmm. I really couldn't care less if Mossad killed this guy; the world is well rid of him. But the evidence that this was done by the Mossad seems all but non-existent. Sure they had a motive -- but so did a lot of armed groups, the target was a widely hated man.
All of the physical evidence that the Dubai police have collected so far, gives no information about the identity of the killers except their general appearance (and frankly quite a few of them look Arabic ...)
However they have so far arrested 3 persons who are believed to have assisted the team. And it turns out that the 3 arrested persons are not only all Palestinian Arabs, but 2 of them are former Fatah men and the third is a current Hamas intelligence agent.
Still more interesting is that the hit depended on the victim's bodyguards unexpectedly being unable to accompany him. The hit team knew of this more than a day in advance. Yet either the victim was extremely careless about travelling alone; was unable to make alternative arrangements within 24 hours (despite being a commander of hundreds of armed men); or had less notice of the delay than did the assassins. The last option has to be the most plausible, yet it squarely implicates one particular suspect, and that suspect is not Mossad.
If the Police Chief Tamim really wants to catch the killers, then instead of shouting "it must be Mossad" whilst thumbing his nose at the evidence his officers have so expertly collected, he needs to find out exactly how and why the bodyguards were delayed, and who knew of it.
"The video says that they reserved the specific room, though."
"Hi I'd like to book room XXX please. We're having a romantic 10th anniversary vacation and we'd like the room we stayed in on our honeymoon"
how many times you think they have slipped past customs internationally? they are trained to be ghosts. how many identities do you think they have? you did not recognized there was another team (other intel)? recognized the gloves one wears after the assumed plot when leaving the hotel? even if caught, any proves to bring them in jail? etc.
mission was of short notice, team well organized and creative. STP.
@ Nick @Dwight
UK passport photo rules require the subject to remove glasses, keep mouth closed and adopt a neutral expression, so how come we see gurning glasses wearers flashing toothy smiles? Are immigration services (and intelligence services) not briefed on the standard passport photo requirements for 3rd country nationals? Maybe those operatives just got lucky in not encountering an eagle-eyed Dubai immigration officer. Unlucky for some.
@Bruce: the reservation of room 237 was done by peter after receiving victims and adjacent room numbers from the first "tennis" team. That is my understanding of the text and the video.
I think too many people are falling into the trap of thinking that what happened was the only possible outcome. Why did it need so many people to kill a man in a hotel room? Why not just one?
I think because this could have panned out in any number of directions, and they wanted it covered.
I think they saw the trip to Dubai as an opportunity where the target would be somewhere new and unfamiliar and did not want to fail.
The large number would have probably been successful even if he had protection detail with him.
And if his plans had changed, a large surveillance team would have been the only way to keep up with this.
thecoldspy - you do sound a bit like you've been reading to many spy novels, which might be clouding your points slightly.
Clive is very knowledgeable in the arena of hotel locks as IIRC he used to design them.
Hotel locks are often very very bad from a perspective of security. They are there for ease of use, to look pretty, last a long time, and to be cheap.
A large hotel will have hundreds of these locks, so price is a major consideration. As long as they stop opportunist thieves and previous occupants from using their old keys whilst the lock fits into the decor, that is all they really care about.
The log in the video shows it's a Vingcard system, which seem to be very popular around the world.
From their own site (http://www.vingcard.com/page?id=1568):
"Hoteliers, architects, security experts and interior designers told us that design integrity is important. Therefore, electronic locks should blend in to the design of your hotel."
I really doubt that a security expert said that.
But anyway, the log in the video shows the attempted reprogramming and has location as "LockLink" which is their Pocket PC based solution for reprogramming and querying locks. It's contact based and almost certainly just a simple serial protocol. Like Clive says, making a general purpose one of these to cover a lot of lock types wouldn't be hard.
It's also not hard to steal one from a maintenance area.
What do you actualy know about hotel room and passage locks in general and specificaly electronic the electronic varieties?
For instance do you know that the electronic part is not actually the lock?
The real mechanical lock containing the latch and dead bolt is a very standard off the shelf part, usually something like an ANSI 5 lever mortice?
The "electronic lock" is actually a replacment for the traditional external "Escutcheon Plate" (finger plate / guard / facia) handle and 5 or 7 pin master key cylinder key lock (which works on the latch not the dead bolt).
This replacment exterior escutcheon plate generaly contains the electronics package, and a latch driver mechanics package.
Both of these packages generaly have non guest overrides.
The electronics package has it for all hotel staff as a "master key" for the usuall room service staff but also a non key "physical access point" override for house security and maintanence staff (the 4 wire connector i mentioned earlier).
The mechanics package generaly only has a pysical access point override for house security and maintanence staff.
The mechanics package usually consists of three parts a handle, a lock latch driving spigot and an electromechanical clutch mechanisum linking the handle and spigot. Thus the usual door latch (not the dead bolt) can be activated simply by activating the electromechanical clutch and turning the handle.
Thus the electronics package security is very much irrelavent to getting the door open you just need to activate the clutch!!!
It is important to remember this because that is what the security and maintanence physical access point overrides are all about. It is also the weakest point security wise of the lock, simply applying a small voltage to the two wires that drive the clutch will open it as will using a strong magnet in many older exterior escutcheon plates.
Importantly the exterior escutcheon plate does not normaly contain a "dead bolt" linkage, that is usually on the interior escutcheon plate only. However the exterior escutcheon plate usually has a "weak point" over it so maintanence and security staff can quickly and quietly open the door to allow emergancy first responders in should the dead bolt be on (as was once noticed by one of Monty Pythons members the big problem with hotels "is the stiffs").
If you actually go to say,
You will see pictures of many hotel electronic exterior escutcheon plate electronic locks of this type (also look at VinKey Kaba et al). Some pictures also show an ANSI 5 lever mortice lock mechanisum as well (or European equivalent lock).
If you look carefully at most of the exterior escutcheon plates you will see they contain a small "weak point" area over the five lever mortice key way area which in hotel and office locks is where the dead bolt is.
Now in contactless or key fob locks such as RFID the weak point may also hide the electronics package "physical access point" connector. In other locks using a card the electronics package physical access point may well be at the back or bottom of the keyway.
The simplest engineering solution would be to have just two wires directly driving the electromechanical clutch. However from a security point of view this would be an absolute disaster.
Thus a compramise is arived at with the four wire connector which also alows a "data logger terminal" to be connected that alows the record of the last twenty or so openings etc to be accessed. Often it is also how the lock is programed on instalation by the "installer gizzmo" and alow software updates...
I can assure you this is usually a great oportunity for engineers to do the "security by obscurity" argument and thus keep the communication protocol to being very very simple and not at all secure (because I've been there and seen it on numerous occasions).
Thus you can view the electronics package as having a high security "key port" and a low security "maintanence port".
Another thing you will notice at looking at various manufactures sites is that they offer many many locks but if you look carefully you will usually see that the key card entry point to the lock is in the same place...
That is the electronics package is common to most of the locks in the range.
On more modern locks the electronics package has been split into effectivly two parts. The guest key electronics has been split out from the clutch driver electronics, data log etc. The reason for this is to alow many different "Guest Key" options. However the physical access point for override will be very much the same over all the manufactures "Hospitality electronic lock" range for many simple reasons like having only one security gizzmo and only one or two front desk units.
Oh and when talking about doors have you considered the electronics package might have a "back door"?
Not a software back door but an electronic back door?
If you get an exterior escutcheon plate from somewhere have a very carefull look at the "snuber" circuit ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... ) around the electromechanical clutch driver transistor. Along with the usuall snubber diode in parellel with the coil there is a diode there to protect the driver transistor from the back EMF from the coil in the solinoid or motor used in the clutch. It is usually connected directly acrosst the transistor and directly to the battery power supply lines not to the electronics supply line that has reverse protection diodes.
I've seen zener diodes or transorbs used across the switch in some of them as they come of the production line, but ordinary diodes are shown in the circuit diagram (all very mysterious)....
If you are scratching your head or thinking "so what", have a look at a zener diodes charecteristics ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zener_diode ).
Specificaly it behaves just like a normal diode but has a very low reverse break down (avalanche) charecteristic. A normal diode would have a break down voltage of 50-300 volts a zenner as little as 3.2 volts.
So if you connect a sufficiently high voltage (say 12V in the right way), the wrong way around on the 4 wire connector powersupply pins, vola the clutch will be directly activated and the door open with no record in the dataloger memory.
As Bruce notes "the weakest link in any chain..."
The difficult part is connecting it "the right way" so as not to cause a fire in the battery or it's connecting leads. The trick is to use high energy reverse voltage pulses to stop issues with the battery (lookup re-charging non rechargable dry cells).
It has been reported that it is easy to clone British biometric chip based e-passports , but that the
cloned passport cannot be used by another because the other person's biometrics, assuming they get
electronically checked against the actual person, would be the same as who the original passport belongs to.
However, what about the idea that the passport document gets cloned, but the new chip just contains the
biometrics of the assassin, alongside a new photo.
It can't be beyond the capability of state agencies to be able to make passport/id card chips for it's secret service operatives, after all they will have commissioned the company to produce the chips.
As many new e-passports use Chips that can be read by RFID, it may not even be necessary to physically steal a
passport, one just has to clone the data captured by an RFID reader , of anyone carrying an e-passport/ID card.
Grab you RFID reader, go on down to your local sea or air port and copy as many e-passports as you like, for later use.
"Paget's device has a range of about 30 feet, making it ideal for discretely skimming the EDL and passport card tags of people who pass by his vehicle. With modifications, Paget says his device could read RFID identifiers that are more than a mile away. The antenna was concealed by the vehicle's tinted window, and the PC and RFID reader fit well below the eye line, making it virtually undetectable by passersby."
Or maybe just do something like:
"New ID cards are supposed to be ‘unforgeable’ – but it took our expert 12 minutes to clone one, and programme it with false data"
I am not sure how data is shared concerning passports, but just like the British have partially introduced
biometric VISAs and ID cards, the key to validity is the likes of the National Identity Register (NIR), which
keeps the biographical and biometric details associated to ID Cards. Therefore, to validate that a
passport is not a clone, it would have to be cross-checked against an issuing authorities database and the person
presenting it, such as the NIR.
Assuming the applicant has not stolen the ID of a person who has never applied for a passport/id card.
With so much CCTV of the suspects, could they have used some sort of technique to alter their normal facial
features, or will they be making a visit or two for facial bone and or facial plastic surgery restructuring?
This situation may actually bolster many state's desires to introduce a NIR and e-passport systems, to indicate
they may need to be share NIR's across borders, to validate id-card/e-passport against 'secure' databases of the
issuing authority, similar to how Schengen data is currently shared
 'Fakeproof' e-passport is cloned in minutes - Times Online
6 Aug 2008 ... New microchipped passports designed to be foolproof against identity theft can be cloned and manipulated in minutes and accepted as genuine ...
 Passport RFIDs cloned wholesale by $250 eBay auction spree • The ...
2 Feb 2009 ... During a recent 20-minute drive in downtown San Francisco, it successfully copied the RFID tags of two passport cards without the knowledge
 500,000 EU computers can access private British data
--you do sound a bit like you've been reading to many spy novels, which might be clouding your points slightly.--
And this comes from or is meant to say or mean what exactly? That you know me? Or that you think you do? I could say something back such as, "I think you spend too much time on hotel door locks and posting in a thread where you have no real reason to be posting in," and this would mean? You see what I am getting at? You don't know me, nor do you know where I have been or what I have done or what I do now. I make a point about a myriad of door locks and various choices one would have to make to show that someone would have to know the door locks in advance, and have a re-programmer for them, which then gets a guy coming in that is an expert at door locks, and all of a sudden he says there are NOT a myriad of door locks, in which I come back with the exact opposite, yes, according to a sample searching on Google, there are in fact a number of door lock sources, makes, models, and manufacturers.
You now come in and back up the other guy claiming you know him, and then back up his statement that there are in fact NOT many door locks, then come in with your knowledge of door locks as well. Sounds strange to me that two guys who happen to know hotel door locks are posting on a thread about a guy that gets killed in a hotel where door locks were discussed. See my point? I don't know you, but I could make some small reference that this was suspicious and make you out to be something you are not. Just like you try to do to me with your statement that I read too much. And when is reading, novels or otherwise a disqualification for posting an opinion? I think recently the Department of Defense or DHS maybe was hiring people who thought out of the box, and could come up with terrorist scenarios in their heads that would help DHS combat such scenarios or design a defense around it. And I might add they were looking for writers, movie screenplay writers, fiction writers etc to fill that void.
At any rate, I don't read novels, as they are usually very boring to me. I prefer non fiction.
As for your argument about stealing one from maintenance, that is a bit of a stretch isn't it? Sounds a bit spy novelist to me lol. I think they would recognize it was missing and do something about it don't you?
And to say that an entire team would rely on a guy who would say "Hey boss, I will steal one when I get there on site," well, sure, you can come along son, sure, steal one as you see fit. We will just wait for you to have that opportunity lol.
Opinion only, they knew the door locks in advance to most of the hotels there, and had brought along equipment for such an eventuality . Question I have is how did they get all this equipment around security at the airport?
Every time I have traveled with electronic materials it has been taken apart by someone in security, and when I arrive at my destination and open my bags you can see how they took it apart to see the guts and so forth to make sure it was not some device that would cause trouble.
Sorry, I don't buy it. You can come in with knowledge of zener diodes and capacitors and various resisters and so forth and make claims that you in fact know that a door lock can be gotten through if you use certain logic circuits and a design to get around Part A, and if Part B and C equal to Part D then YES!! VOILA, IT SHOULD WORK. The door could in fact be opened, let me now insert a Bruce quote and get Bruce to back me up, The WEAKEST LINK IN THE CHAIN!!!!
Yes, but it doesn't add up now does it? The killing took 10 minutes, and the hallway video is being kept under wraps for some reason, so either it did not get filmed or they are leaving it open to speculation, and for what purpose I do not know. But we see hallway footage in the start when he does surveillance on the room, then we never see hallway footage again. Why?
If we knew what happened in that hallway we wouldn't need to talk it over here now, we would see they used a re-programmer to get in or a key-card they cloned and somehow changed, (easy enough I suppose to do.) They did in fact have a room key for the other room, and it was encoded for them, maybe they swiped it on a re-encoder and someone changed the room numbers? Maybe not.
At any rate, no matter, this is pointless, you know door locks yes, but I could wiki several other items and make claims I know something too, doesn't mean anything. They had 10 minutes, the doors were either opened for them by the victim, or they used a reprogrammed card or they opened the door by jamming it or picking it, it is possible I know to get around door locks.
You don't have to prove to me anything Clive. You made a claim that I refuted, you cannot come back and say there are not a myriad of models, manufacturers and suppliers. It would then boil down to your definition and mine of the word myriad. And I will not go there with you. You know your trade, but there were a myriad of suppliers and manufacturers, and that point was well made OK? You don't need to call your buddies up and have them come to your defense. For all I know your a locksmith lol.
One question for you. Didn't the kill team arrive after the victim went to his room? So this would negate them waiting for him in his room before he arrived wouldn't it?
So they either
1. Used a key-card and entered or
2.They knocked on the door as hotel staff and pushed their way through.
I can assure you that Clive and myself are not the same person and if you look to some other posts about locks and security, you'll see we have quite different opinions on certain matters.
You could probably only learn to open 5% of the types of locks and be able to open 95% of the doors. In the same way that learning to pick a 5 pin tumbler lock and 5 lever mortice lock would get you past 95% of the front doors in the UK. Generally you can apply a bit of lateral thinking and work out how to get round a lot of different locks.
I made this point above but I think the way that this operation turned out is one out of possibly thousands of outcomes. The team will be highly trained and be able to use a wide range of skills to achieve their objective almost autonomously. There probably was no detailed plan.
They saw the opportunity to attempt to reprogramme the lock and went for it as they had the skills and equipment. Had the target have been in a private residence with a protection detail, I'm sure another plan would have been put into action.
I really don't think this needs anything more than a PDA and a serial cable with adapter. It's something which airport security would just let through.
Stealing a programmer is really not a stretch. I often see tool carts being wheeled around hotel hallways. I've worked in large buildings, and when a tool goes missing you are far more likely to think you've misplaced it, or a co-worker has borrowed it than it has been stolen by a team of assassins. These are maintenance workers in a country that pays badly - it wouldn't take much to bribe one of them either. It's also exactly the kind of thing hotel management wouldn't do much about as they wouldn't want to worry guests and lose revenue.
I certainly think that this is a far more believable idea than the entire team and witnesses being killed afterwards.
I did not allude to both of you being one and the same. 99 percent of your post is spot on, and I know it :)
As for stealing anything, that is not something you plan on later, you bring it prior. They were in country and out too quickly to have relied on a method like that. The rest of what you said is pretty standard, and I agree.
The last part though, I don't agree. You take a premise and then make it out to be something else.
As you said
--I certainly think that this is a far more believable idea than the entire team and witnesses being killed afterwards.--
You say that your idea about stealing a re-programmer is a far more plausible one that witnesses being killed afterwards.
You take a standard conclusion, then twist it to suit your own needs to say that witnesses are probably never killed or that the thought or idea that killing the team afterwards is not plausible, as if witnesses are never killed and stealing door lock re-programmers are one in the same :)
Sorry, but your conclusions about stealing a programmer are valid, albeit maybe cutting it too close to the edge pre-operationally, but killing witnesses doesn't belong in that same sentence :)
Look, you think what you want. I am sure it has been thought about, maybe discarded, but who knows right? Trust is the issue, and in this world trust is something few if any give up.
I liken it to this; the military builds on trust, trust your commander, your buddy, as they will save your life if they can and you trust them based on that. Outside of the military trust is something that is an illusion.
You trust airport security, but this operation has proven there are more holes in that security than we previously knew or thought. Therefore that trust we have is misplaced.
Same is usually applied to the intelligence field. Intelligence is never trusted no matter where it comes from, as it has to be analyzed and filtered up the chain. By the time it gets to the top, it's totally different than what was originally presented in the field, thus the field agent has no trust of the upper chain, much like the upper chain has no trust of agents in the field.
The same applies to most anything you do. You cannot depend on what another individual will do at any given time or under any given stress. Some people talk too much, some people drink and talk, some people tell their wives, some people tell their mistresses, some people make small mistakes, and others make critical mistakes which are costly later on. The more you have on the team the more this becomes evident, because it is something you do have to deal with the more you bring along.
If it were me that was on that operation I wouldn't trust anyone right now. That is just the way it is. I can't explain it more to you, but that is my opinion, not yours, and we agree to disagree.
Thanks for the information on locks, I have looked at many of the get meetings every so often of the masters, and know that most can get through any lock in a matter of minutes or even seconds. My point was not to say that you or Clive did not know what they were talking about when it came to locks, my point was that there was in fact a myriad of companies and manufactures and models to contend with, thus they needed some advance knowledge of the lock terrain prior. Or maybe they took as much equipment as they could that would fit 80 or 90 percent of what was out there. I am not the judge on that however because none of us have the hallway video to see entry and exit.
A little history that might be of interest to you.
Back in the 80's and 90's there where Jewish people emegrating to Israel who on arival gave their life stories and their current UK passports to the authorities in Israel. In return they where issued with new citizenship etc.
Now something about how the UK issues new passports that as I found out just recently is still happening.
When you go to the UK passport office with your old about to expire passport you take along two photos a form with your signiture and the old passport (that you can ask to keep).
You arive about a half hour before you apointment, walk up to the payment counter and pay in cash, where you get a recipt. You then wait in the que to be called at your apointed time (or there abouts ;)
When called you go up to the apropriate cubby hole hand over your form photos, passport and recipt. The person their looks you over and if you look sufficiently similar in their view they stamp the form put it in an envolope and tell you to come back for your new passport at an appropriate time.
Now since my last passport I've put on quite a bit of weight, my hair is longer and thiner, I've grown a beard to cover up some scars and gone a bit "badger" in both the beard and facial hair as well as now wearing tinted specs.
Basicaly I realy don't look much like I did 15 years ago (when my last passport photo was taken).
So consider this,
How difficult would it be to match field agents to that quantity of passports (remember it's a birthday paradox problem)?
Personaly I think it is very very possible for Mosad to have multiple genuine UK passports for all their field agents, likewise for other countries where Jews have emigrated.
Add to this there is also temporary cosmetic surgery (botox, collegen, sailine lipid and other injections) to change facial features quite a degree. Then there is simple makeup some of which is organic dyes that penetrate down through the epidermis etc (fake tan on steroids ;) hair dye and a whole host of other bits and bobs to get you to match two poor resolution photos, the old one and the new one, and guess which one the passport officer looks at most (yup the old one, the new one they are more interested in checking the statment and signiture on the back...).
So just how difficult do you think it is to become the person who has emigrated from Britain for real in Britain?
Oh having got a passport (new or old) all you need to do is take it to a DVLA office where a same "glance check" is performed and you have a nice new drivers licence which with the passport give you the two photo id's required to open a bank account.
Now for the kicker you go pay 15GBP for a deed poll form and bang you have changed your name. You then go back with your notarised deed poll form and get a new drivers licence and passport (there are supposed to be checks but they appear not to work from what has gone on with illegal imigrants).
Now just to stir it up a bit If you where born in NI you can go and get a legitimate Irish Republic passport and pull the same deed poll trick there.
Oh and there are some quaint old laws in Germany about being able to get a German passport if you can show German ancestry (not sure if they are still valid) but their are one heck of a load of jewish emigrants to Israel from England who's parents or Grandparent's where Jew's born in Germany or Austria who fled from those countries in the 1930's etc... Many of them where given UK citizenship and new "English names" so they could go into the British armed forces and fight the Germans...
I think you can see from this that Mosad would not actualy need to use fake passports except on a "mission where the ID was going to be burned".
"Yes, but it doesn't add up now does it? The killing took 10 minutes,... ...then we never see hallway footage again. Why?"
Well there might be a whole load of reasons. For one it still appears to be a matter of public speculation how he was actually killed. Some say he was electrocuted behind the ears others different.
We do not know either if items where taken something like a laptop for instance.
It may be concivable that infact they did not intend to kill him but tourture him to reveal a password or some such and it went wrong.
It is all to much speculation to say anything with regards to that and nor do I wish to.
All I intended to do was show that as far as lock programers go they are not that difficult to make.
It is known that in the past Mosad personel used to pretend to be IBM staff and try to talk about "hospitality software deals" to get free loans of front desk units etc. I personaly caught them out back in the 80's. They then sent others back pretending to have an order for the IDF to use in bunkers etc, they got caught out again. It was shortly after that that the MD who was Jewish got aproached by a small firm of programers from Israel and they talked him into using them to write the new front desk unit software and interface it to hospitality systems.
With a little talking to the MD struck a deal that got the front desk software written for about 1/20th of the price it should have been because we kept all the details they realy wanted untill last...
Mosad like most other large intel organisations are known to collect details on just about every 3 star and above hotel in the areas of the world they operate as a matter of routien.
So they would have known well in advance what lock types where in all the hotels in the target zone, before this operation was even started.
I'm sorry if my view points don't tie up with your speculations but hey untill things like the autopsy report become public knowledge you and others are free to speculate, just don't build them on foundations of sand and not expect people on this blog to point them out to you.
@thecoldspy @Clive Robinson
In the full video they show a map of the camera layout for the hotel. It shows a camera in that hallway, but it's directly after his hotel room and facing away (toward a fire exit?). I was confused at first because there is hallway footage of the tennis costume agent, but my thinking is he walked all the way past the target's room, pretending to be lost, then turned around and walked back, looking at the room numbers. The video clip shows him glancing at a door, but it's the door after the target's and he's most likely counting them down on his return trip.
@Bruce, my line of thinking in my Hollywood mode is...similar to witness protection..outside of the box thinking, in way of getting this guy off the grid.
Amazing..Drop me an e-line or two if you ever get time :)
@Erik, I saw the same thing. Interesting.
I'm sorry, but maybe these guys should watch more TV, and see all those ads for services like Vonage(tm) or Skype. Each agent could have their own set of phone numbers with different country codes for calling in to central coordination. And all for only $4.95 a month! Very important in these times of tight budgets ...
Thomas wrote:''Hmm... After watching the video, I am left wondering why the surveillance camera seems to follow the suspects. Do they have a camera for each person in the area and then automatically follow every person?''
They are using technology based on
SAMURAI(Suspicious and Abnormal behaviour Monitoring Using a netwoRk of cAmeras for sItuation awareness enhancement).See link for more information: http://www.samurai-eu.org/Home.htm
As for dragging them off to jail, we do live in a civilized society, and despite being at war on several fronts, I think Dubai has made the claim that they have helped many other nations in the fight against drug trafficking and global crime, so they have asked Interpol to help, and that request has been granted. Be they in Israel as hero's or not, they will never leave Israel again if that is where they end up being found.
As for the Mossad having advantages, I would say they do not enjoy such advantages as you may think. Mossad agents have been prosecuted in the NL for passport fraud, and I believe they had some problems in Canada not too long ago as well. I do not believe that advantages exist for people who are seen or identified in the commission of felonious acts. Maybe if they had a diplomatic passport, but again, they were traveling on forged passports and were not in uniform when they carried out the hit, therefore it was murder plain and simple. My opinion of course.
If they were expecting to be completely burned, what was the point of the disguises? It might make sense for the high-quality passport photos to feature disguises and the low-quality CCTV to be real faces, but they did it the other way, right?
(Was it only agents who saw the victim at the airport that changed? but with such a large team, why such duplication?)
"Hi, is this Dubai police? Yes, I have a customer who checked into my hotel and asked for a specific room by number. I think you should come check him out, that's strange."
Making the hotel clerk think, "That guy is weird" isn't going to blow your operation. Weird people check into hotels all day long. I'll be these people have done dry runs around the world, asking for rooms by number or similar such stuff, without any operation going on, just to see how easy it is to do certain things. Want to know how long you can hang out in a hotel lobby before they start watching you? Do it first on vacation, not in an operation.
Regarding them being caught on video: Judging by the cameras, they had no option other than never visiting Dubai. If they had aborted the operation at the last moment, what are the odds that the Dubai government would've gone through all the footage?
They only got identified because they succeeded. They only got identified through a very long, tedious process of thousands of hours of video being reviewed.
To me, that sounds like the best you can hope for in a place full of cameras: Failure goes unnoticed, success isn't noticed for many days.
I want to know what sort of personal communicators they were using. Some sort of very broad frequency hopping spread spectrum system, or something more straightforward?
1. The "tennis players" seemed confused when they got out of the elevator for a good reason -- they had to act confused about where their (fictitious) room was located. What was clumsy about the tailing operation was the blatantly obvious manner in which it was done. They tailed the victim from the check-in counter to the elevator (in full view of the victim), got off at the same floor as the victim, and then followed the victim to the room, again in full view. Should have alerted the victim, who ought to have vacated the hotel immediately.
2. When the door lock was reprogrammed (by an unknown user) the suspicious event was logged. Should have triggered off an alarm, for an attempted break-in is serious.
3. Mossad probably did not have enough time to devise an elaborate plan to fool the cctv camers. Taking them out would probably have triggered an alarm.
4. Security at Dubai 5-star hotels is remarkably lax. How did all kinds of characters go in and out of the hotel carrying suspicious baggage without being frisked? In India, after the 26/11 terrorist incident, these people would have been challenged by hotel security and frisked. Further, how did the electronic/mechanical equipment needed for the break-in get past airport/hotel security?
5. In my view, the operation was flawed from the outset. Not worth antagonizing entire nations, just to get at a Hamas operative who was probably just a cog in the wheel and will be replaced swiftly. Some innocent Israeli civilians are going to pay the price for this ill-conceived assassination, when Hamas retaliates. The price Israel has paid/will pay for its revenge is not worth it.
More on port passing documents:
Israeli immigration officials copied British passports used by hit squad, ministers told
"The six British citizens whose identities were stolen and used by the killers all had their passports taken away from them briefly during routine checks at the airport, it has been claimed.
All six British passports were not biometric, which means they did not have a computer chip embedded in them and so the fraud would have been relatively straightforward, experts believe. "
Anyone wishing to clone a passport, may also need to know where the person had been before, by knowing what visa's, borders stamps etc exist in the passport. Because the port of entry may already hold a copy of the passport alongside any biometric/biographical details previously supplied, a cloned passport and the person using it could contradict any retained information.
First off - its about time a good post like this has shown up (albeit a shame to the deceased). It is fascinating enough that lots of people are commenting (166 at the time of writing!) and this leads to some wonderful sharing of knowledge and ideas.
The down side is that *lots* of people seem to have a bizarre movie plot idea of how things work - previous I assumed most commenters here were better than that.
"Green" does (IMHO) the best analysis at February 19, 2010 5:35 PM but I would like to add a few comments of my own:
1 - no agency is perfect no matter how "Professional" its reputation may be. From the looks of things who ever ran this job was very successful and used very professional operators.
All the current debate is based on 20:20 hindsight so its easy "to connect the dots" and see how obvious it all looked. At the time, no one was suspicious and no one was challenged. If the death had been viewed as a suicide we wouldn't have this discussion and a national agency would have 11 clean skinned operators at its disposal.
I see no reason to assume that they were sent with a plan to be burned or anything similar.
2 - The Dubai authorities are not incompetent. The world has changed and, surprisingly to some, so has the security apparatus in the middle east. This means that its harder for any agency to operate and slightly more likely that missions will get discovered at some stage.
Why people are amazed that the Dubai police can put together footage like this and identify suspects is beyond me.
3 - Despite thecoldspy's assertion trust is integral to real world intelligence agencies in every nation. The agency has to implicitly trust the operator and vice versa. Should Mossad decide to bury 11 of its international staff because of this, they would (as mentioned) cease to exist almost instantly.
They did the job they were deployed to do and they did it well. All international operations carry a risk of compromise and this will be factored into the agency's decision making process. Obviously this risk was deemed to be acceptable.
4 - Numbers: 11 is not a lot of people for a job like this. In film/tv/books a single hit man can do the job, but that rarely matches reality. As others have suggested if anything there were probably more on the ground who haven't been discovered yet.
If we run down the tasks a job like this involves its easy to see that the more the merrier - surveillance alone needs manpower, also technical teams, control and so on. If you are a state actor, or similar, where resources are large enough throwing more people at the task is a bonus. Look at how CT teams operate for an example - in NI we would swamp a target with surveillance, have an arrest team on standby, tech teams ready to deploy as required etc. Why should this be different?
5 - Planned / unplanned: Its always going to be a mix of both. Having numbers and an out of country control allows operational flexibility which is essential.
For whatever reason it was decided that the window of opportunity was Dubai so it seems the team was flexible enough to do on-the-ground planning. This also explains some of the apparent stumbles when something unexpected occurs and the operators have to readjust. Nothing unusual about this at all.
6 - Again, going back to thecoldspy - the location of the hit was fine. Its the easiest thing in the world to say "I would have done ..." but the decision that matters is the one by the operational commander on the ground. We have no way of knowing what operational constraints he (or she) faced or what pressures he was under. There is no such thing as enough intelligence during a mission so the luxury of recce-ing a whole city for a suitable location is unlikely.
Likewise it is difficult to control a targets movements so well that you can find a suitable public place for something like this. So why would you when he has a perfect choke point (pun intended) in a hotel room? In public areas you have many, many more things to control (including bystanders etc) but in a hotel room there is one main entrance...
7 - just goes to show how pointless extra controls on passports are... :-)
Overall, this may well have been a Mossad job - it certainly removes someone they would want gone - but unless they cough to it all we can do is speculate.
From a security perspective the main lesson is that (again as previously mentioned) if your opponent will through enough resources you have no security.
Operationally it went perfectly. The only fly in the ointment was the decision (after the event) to treat the death as a murder. That was very unlikely given the circumstances but there is nothing you can do about that - the team did everything possible to minimise that risk.
Saying it was a "hamfisted" operation is an odd one - what evidence do we have to show they they are more efficient? How do we know that the things that are called "failures" here are not normal but dont normally get detected?
Oh, and yes I do suffer from SIWOTI :-)
Coldspy: "I would have killed the target on the street, it would have looked like a robbery, and I would have made off with the targets car and then dumped it and flew home."
The reason the assassins chose the hotel room (in full view of the cctv cameras) was they needed at least 12 hours to make a getaway. Remember, they had to board international flights. So they had to wait for night, till the hotel staff went home. Had they acted as you suggested, the Dubai authorities would have sealed off the airport before they could escape. Also I suspect that Mossad may have wanted to look at the victim's belongings to get any available information.
German media report that the German passport was officially issued by German autorities according to normal procedures.
Someone arrived at an office in Cologne, basically showing them documents "prooving" he was the son of a German couple and thus wanted to get a German passport. Something Clive already speculated about.
Anyway, politics aside: you can issue perfect biometric passports fullfilling all your dreams, but you won't get any benefits at all, as long as the process for issuing those documents is deeply flawed.
Good post. A few things I noted in your post I would disagree with. Number one being trust is integral to every intelligence agency in every nation.
I think recent history has shown that no one has any trust for anyone else these days. It might have been that way in days gone by, but in this new digital world we find ourselves in today trust is something no one can really afford. This is an issue that I can link you to in volumes if you wish. I don't include that here because it clutters up the comment box. However if you wish, I can address this issue at length in another post.
Let me just state that cross agencies are always at cross purposes. One agency, say the FBI, doesn't trust the other agency CIA, and the SS doesn't trust the FBI, nor do the agents running around between them, and this is just domestically. And there are countless articles on this lack of trust around for you to easily search for it.
Internationally it is even worse. Most agents in the field or their direct supervisors have no trust when it comes to compromiseing agents or operations or other issues with international agencies or actors, thus they always have this level of keeping things close to the vest when dealing with any other agency internationally. International cooperation is flimsy at best, and at its worst can compromise agents in the field and ongoing investigations and operations. And this is just a small piece of the intelligence field.
Narrowing it down to field agents, most do not even trust their own families because they can't compromise what they are doing for their own safety and the safety of their families. What job they do, where they do it at, is always a cover and never truly disclosed. Why is that?
Post Hanssen, Aldrich Ames and a host of other screw ups, the world of intelligence has changed right along with the world of surveillance. And one of the very things that has changed with it is the measure of trust that used to be part and parcel part of the job.
Couple that with the ever increasing leaks that happen around the globe, trust is something that you cannot even believe in anymore. If you do not believe me just ask Valerie Plame.
And who outed her?
Scooter Libby and Dick Cheney. And who were they? People high in government that should have been as safe on the trust list as they come. However because of that we now know that in this world trust is not something that anyone can afford anymore. You speak of this by gone era of trust like it is something ground into stone. I can tell you that you are speaking of an era that has long since past. The safest way to operate today is with ZERO TRUST.
Because the minute you trust someone else is the minute they own you. And you then have to live with that for the rest of your days. Whether you can or not is up to you, but trust is just not something anyone can afford anymore, and the people that tend to spread this mantra are the very people in government that you seem to believe in. If you have to ask where this lack of trust comes from or why it is being spread, just ask them, because they spread it everywhere they go. The word is NO TRUST.
The only viable trust that seems to be left is in military circles, however that trust is now eroding with the latest shooting at Fort Hood committed by an Army Major no less. If you can't trust the brass to not blow off some steam by running down the hallway shooting at anyone and everyone he can see, then who can you trust?
The world is becoming a place where every man has to watch his own back at ALL TIMES, not just some of the times, but all of the time. And this stretches all the way inside the intelligence business, and for that matter any business. You can't even trust that you will go to work tomorrow, much less next week or next month. Your boss may fire you next week after telling you "Good Job Brownie..."
Reality is that today you just never know who to trust, when to trust or how far to trust. One day you have a good crew of friends in the business, and the next week they have orders to terminate you. You really will have no clue unless you are always on point. And the minute you lose that point will probably be your last. See Mahmoud al-Mabhouh and ask him if you don't believe me. Oh I'm sorry you can't, he is dead. Know why? He got off point and started to trust his environment.
The one thing I think some of you that say trust is all there is and without it everything would collapse, fail to realize that the reason people get killed are because they had TRUST or believed in it enough which ended up getting them killed.
The one issue that we are all here for is because Mahmoud al-Mabhouh trusted the wrong people or trusted the environment too much. And that trust is what ended up costing him his life.
As for those who killed him I would say that they are probably reading these posts, maybe even a few of that team are commenting here on it. I think for them the issue is this, how long can you trust those you worked with or those above you?
And that is a decision that will probably take quite a long time to decide on. So it doesn't mean all of them are in jeopardy now, it could come later, one just never knows. And that is the key here, time. And in the time one has one always has to wonder when his number is up in that business for some past sin or perceived screw up. In the case of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, the claim is that he was responsible for 2 Israeli soldiers being killed back in 1989, and in 2010 justice finally came. That is a very long time to get revenge don't you think? Of course that could just be the excuse for it. None the less, governments and agencies within those governments never seem to forget past sins or mistakes made.
For those interested in the legal and ethical issues involved in this case (and many others with a security angle) I spotted this book on Saturday, which was published this week. It looks interesting, but I have't had time to read it yet, so the information below is based on the publisher's blurb.
Moral Dilemmas of Modern War
Torture, Assassination, and Blackmail in an Age of Asymmetric Conflict
Cambridge University Press 2010
Michael L. Gross (University of Haifa, Israel)
Paperback. (ISBN-13: 9780521685108) Also available in Hardback. February 2010. £17.99
Asymmetric conflict is changing the way that we practise and think about war. Torture, rendition, assassination, blackmail, extortion, direct attacks on civilians, and chemical weapons are all finding their way to the battlefield despite longstanding international prohibitions. This book offers a practical guide for policy makers, military officers, students, and others who ask such questions as: Do guerillas deserve respect or long jail sentences? Are there grounds to torture guerillas for information or assassinate them on the battlefield? Is there room for nonlethal weapons to subdue militants and safeguard the lives of noncombatants? Who are noncombatants in asymmetric war? What is the status of civilians who shelter and aid guerillas? And, do guerillas have any right to attack civilians, particularly those who aid and shelter members of the stronger army? If one side can expand the scope of civilian vulnerability, then why can’t the other?
• A practical guide to the legal and moral aspects of the major tactics of asymmetric war that include assassination, harsh interrogation, nonlethal chemical warfare, and attacks on civilian combatants • Well suited for students, military officers, and policy makers who confront the moral dilemmas of modern war • An innovative account of the emerging norms and conventions of asymmetric war that give new and expanded meaning to the principles of unnecessary suffering, proportionality, and noncombatant immunity
1. Torture, assassination and blackmail in modern, asymmetric conflict;
2. Friends, foes or brothers in arms? The puzzle of combatant equality; Part I. Dilemmas and Paradoxes of Combatancy:
3. Shooting to kill: the paradox of prohibited weapons;
4. Shooting to stun: the paradox of nonlethal warfare;
5. Murder, self-defense or execution? The dilemma of assassination;
6. Human dignity or human life: the dilemmas of torture; Part II. Dilemmas and Paradoxes of Noncombatancy:
7. Blackmailing the innocent: the dilemma of noncombatant immunity;
8. Killing the innocent: the dilemma of terror;
9. Risking our lives to save others: the paradox (and dilemma) of humanitarian intervention; Conclusion:
10. Torture, assassination and blackmail: new norms for asymmetric conflict?
Green: "A few things are clear, and one is that there are now hundreds of people who know who the operatives are. After all, Israel is a small country. These people had to grow up in neighborhoods, go to schools, etc. At least a few of their friends, family and classmates know who they are. What their real names are.
When you believe that, you don't give up the identities of your own people on a whim."
Maybe not on a whim. But what if Dubai offers a million dollars for any information on any of the wanted suspects? Also remember that of the hundreds of people who know the suspects, many could be their enemies. And how can their identities be protected from foreign intelligence operatives? Tough task. Maybe these people would have to be isolated forever from family/friends and be given new identities (maybe with plastic surgery thrown in).
I want to put in a wild guess on how the assassins managed to leave the door latched/chained from the inside. Could they have used some powerful magnets together with appropriate devices that enable them to see through the door material to guide the latch/chain in place from outside the room? Did not seem likely that they opened a door panel, because that would take time, if at all possible.
A small continuation of the points I disagree with.
--The down side is that *lots* of people seem to have a bizarre movie plot idea of how things work - previous I assumed most commenters here were better than that.---
I think most here do in fact read. We also have Google for research, and most of us know how to use keywords and searching techniques, so in fact most here who have commented are not stuck in movie plots in my opinion. Plus, not all movie plots are flawed, some are based on facts or books that were written by various people in the game that were able to fictionalize some things - but put other things in context that are ground in facts. Not shilling for movie writers or screenplay writers or novelists either.
--1 - no agency is perfect no matter how "Professional" its reputation may be. From the looks of things who ever ran this job was very successful and used very professional operators.__
I don't agree. Operating in full view of the cameras is operating poorly. Never reveal, and if you do, close it down and wait for another opportunity when you will not reveal yourself.
The kill team had some issues too. Two of them were overly fat, and probably couldn't run down the block in an emergency because of that. Study their weight and body fat ratios. In a way this shows that their diets are bad, and that they don't work out much. Maybe they sit around too much or spend too much time at the greasy spoon, which can also identify where they spend time at country wise. Weight is a Western culture issue. Just look at obesity in various countries to see how the population is made up and you will find that in Western cultures obesity is a problem, where in other cultures obesity is not much of a problem at all. I would say that at least those two on the kill team may spend time in America or maybe eat too much Western food.
Either way a number of those on the team were overly fat. What does that say? Plenty.
--They did the job they were deployed to do and they did it well.--
I just do not know how you can say that. Having your entire team and the entire operation on camera now in full view of the public worldwide is not doing a job well done.
--Obviously this risk was deemed to be acceptable.--
And the fallout? The retaliations? The International uproar? The only people who really benefit are the resistance, as they can now use this as ammunition for countless jihads and a wave of murders and bombings that will surely follow all in his name. I do not call that an acceptable risk.
--4 - Numbers: 11 is not a lot of people for a job like this. In film/tv/books a single hit man can do the job, but that rarely matches reality.--
Yet we are still asked to believe that JFK was murdered by a lone gunmen. Of course RFK was also killed by one man too right? And RFK had how much security around him? How about JFK, how much security did he have? Yet, IF and I say IF we are to believe what the government says, one lone gunmen killed both of them. Therefore one man can do as much damage as a team of experts.
--If we run down the tasks a job like this involves its easy to see that the more the merrier--
Sure is merry now isn't it? Interpol involved, countless governments demanding explanations, countless more people being investigated, countless threats being issued, yes, a very merry operation for sure.
----If you are a state actor, or similar, where resources are large enough throwing more people at the task is a bonus.---
The bonus being that 11 or more people are now wanted for murder, the resistance now has a martyr for countless retaliation moves being planned this very minute, and a host of YouTube videos to study every move made by those who made them. Bonus? I think not.
----Look at how CT teams operate for an example - in NI we would swamp a target with surveillance, have an arrest team on standby, tech teams ready to deploy as required etc. Why should this be different?----
Because stealth is still an integral part of operating. Never let them see you come in and never let them see you leave. If you cannot follow those rules then you should wait for a better opportunity or just quit and move onto something else as your too video happy or in too much of a rush or have too much of a desire to please those above you.
---There is no such thing as enough intelligence during a mission so the luxury of recce-ing a whole city for a suitable location is unlikely.---
OK, so if I get into a jam and don't know my ass from a hole in the ground and need to run or escape, I should just run around from hotel to hotel until caught right? Because in Dubai it is so hot that most Westernized people cannot stand the heat outside for more than a few minutes. If I do a job I want on the ground intelligence on the entire city, or as much as I can get prior. I want to know safe houses or safe places I can go in an emergency. I want to rent a few places in advance just in case. I want to have access to passports and better disguises. I want to know that my safe houses have enough food in them for a long stay in case I get hot and need to lay low for an extended time. I want to know people in the city and beyond I can use for transport. I want them to know me as a regular Joe too so if something goes wrong and one of my disguises gets blown I can safely blend into the environment for awhile without causing too much problem. In other words, I don't want to depend too much on others for my safety in a jam, team or no team.
---In public areas you have many, many more things to control (including bystanders etc) but in a hotel room there is one main entrance...--
And room quality means that screaming out can cause people to come out of their rooms to see what is going on. There are also fire exits at each end of the hallway. Plus you have elevators with people coming and going, and any one of them can potentially screw your operation up if something goes wrong in the first 10 seconds of entry. What if Mahmoud al-Mabhouh had a gun at the ready, and when they entered the room the gun went off or he fired several rounds while they were in the process of taking him down? I would say that the hotel room with its thin walls and rooms on either side of the target room could in fact be more problematic than operating in another location.
I would say there was plenty of gambling going on with the people calling the shots on the ground, and now they have paid the price for it. They were seen.
--Operationally it went perfectly. The only fly in the ointment was the decision (after the event) to treat the death as a murder. That was very unlikely given the circumstances but there is nothing you can do about that ---
Wrong. The murder would have been revealed during the autopsy, and that was already known. Thus it was already a given that this operation would result in failure because it would be seen as a homicide. Those running it were operating in a rush, with too much adrenaline, and stepped way over the line operationally.
---Saying it was a "hamfisted" operation is an odd one - what evidence do we have to show they they are more efficient?---
The evidence that people get killed daily and no one knows to this day who did it or why.
--How do we know that the things that are called "failures" here are not normal but dont normally get detected?--
Exactly. But when you are not detected it is not a public failure. It might be a private one; whereby people left behind prints and people had to be bought off or killed to cover up the screw ups, but the end result was we never found out about it.
Wow, if there is anything that stands out about this blog the most to me, it is the ability of the participants to create prodigious amounts of text while keeping the signal to noise ratio tight. Against my better judgement I'm going to try to tackle all of this...
Most of this is going to be directed at you, I feel I more or less agree with what everyone else is saying here so I won't waste much time going over that. For the benefit of clarity and myself, I'm going to enumerate your opinions, as I understand them. I'll try to cite which post I am getting these from. Correct me if I have misunderstood any of them.
1) You believe "it was planned well in advance" (your website)
2) You believe Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was betrayed by someone close to him, possibly very close (your website)
3) You believe that this was carried out by a team of at least 11 operatives, as indicated by the media
4) You do not believe the operatives involved were professionals (numerous posts, most notably February 19, 2010 6:19 PM)
You've also made some comments about the importance of trust in the intelligence community. I'm not going to get into this quite yet as I feel it is an issue that deserves special attention.
Concerning believe #2 listed above: I do not know to what extent you belief a betrayal was involved. Was the betrayal nothing more than a leak of information, or was the entire operation orchestrated by members of his organization? I don't think this is terribly important though, my arguments stand either way.
Now, with these 4 points as a basis, we can build up some fairly logical conclusions:
1) Taking into consideration points #1 and #2, we can safely assume that you believe the wheels of betrayal were in motion for some time before the actual hit.
2) Taking into consideration points #2 and #3, it's logical to assume that either a large number of operatives in his organization turned against him, or that a possibly far smaller number of people in his organization betrayed him to an existing organization that had a reason to see him dead.
3) Taking into consideration points #3 and #2, I believe it is fair to say you believe 11 people or were at least involved in the planning this operation for some time.
So far, so good. I don't think we have any major issues with this theory so far. However, when we start including point #4 with the other points, I think we start to see some cracks:
4) combining point #4 with sub-point #2, it seems that you believe either the members of his organization that carried out the hit were not professionals, or that the organization that was contacted were not professionals.
5) combining point #4 with sub-point #3: You believe that a large number of people where able cooperate in planning and coordinating an attack on this mans life. They were able to successfully anticipate his movements, arrange for his protective detail to be absent, carry out the attack more or less as was planned a good deal of time before hand, and succeed in taking his life. And you believe that these people where not professionals.
This is where I have to stop for a minute and think. Sub-point #5 is a major issue for me. Either you have an extraordinarily high bar for professionals, or something else that I haven't accounted for is in play here. Lets take a look at your reasons for asserting that this job was not done by professionals:
1) They operated in full view of cameras. (numerous posts, including February 21, 2010 3:09 PM)
2) They did not "clean up loose ends" so to speak. (February 19, 2010 2:15 PM)
A bit on #1 before I get to the others. You cannot make your target walk around in shady areas of town where there will not be witnesses. Nor do invisibility cloaks exist in real life. You seem to be asserting that the hit was unprofessional because it took place in a hotel and they didn't hire the cast of CSI to haxx0r the camera system. I don't buy this rational at all, and several other posts have been dedicated to why it doesn't make much sense. #2 is the trust discussion, which I'll let other handle.
3) They were fat. (February 21, 2010 3:09 PM)
Ok, now it _really_ seems like you are grasping for straws. Their physical fitness had absolutely nothing to do with why this mission allegedly was a failure. Had it actually come into play you could be sure everything had already gone FUBAR. Your assertions "Weight is a Western culture issue." and "at least those two on the kill team may spend time in America or maybe eat too much Western food" show bad taste and do little to constructively contribute to the discussion.
Lets continue though...
4) "I would interject that this was the act of cowards and not patriots or professionals. Since when did 11 against one unarmed guy become professional? Or when did it become the act of professionals? I can see one guy one target, but 11 guys supplanted by 4 kill team members who were able to easily overpower one guy alone is the act of cowards." (February 19, 2010 6:19 PM)
I'm done here. I am quoting that one in full because I don't want anyone to think that I am playing tricks with paraphrasing. You are asserting that it is unprofessional to not give the target a fair fight. This is so many kinds of absurd I barely even know where to begin! These people are not prizefighters, they are assassins. Why would you ever expect them to give their marks a fair fight?
This last point is a very important one in my opinion. I am sticking with my original assertion that you are too emotionally involved to critically analyze the situation. It is political for you, even if you may not realize it yourself, and your adherence to such poorly thought out arguments just reinforces my point. Certain elements of your theory are not all that terribly fringe but you start seriously going off the deep end once you try to defend it.
I learned a lesson, security shrink stuff, really matters with ops, the smallest details will set the stage for how the media, and perhaps how the world views and judges security decisions.
Another security lesson, learn to respect what you do not know, and do not have on radar, for that is part of what is often going on.
--Against my better judgement I'm going to try to tackle all of this...--
Why is this a decision of judgment for you to post your thoughts? This is after all why comments are ongoing here, which is to pick apart various thoughts from various people who happen to comment here about events they see as pertinent :)
__1) You believe "it was planned well in advance" (your website)---
And since the times uk article today this shows that it was in fact planned months in advance. As the team was onto him during several trips to Dubai. Point concluded as a probable.
---2) You believe Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was betrayed by someone close to him, possibly very close (your website)---
Standard when betrayal comes into play. I can recount something that happened recently with FARC and a certain commander who was removed, and now it shows it was his second in command that helped his assassination. This is the usual when operators run tight operations giving only the chosen few their timetables, routes, thoughts, desires, and most of all, TRUST. And that trust issue you fail to discuss because it is in fact a real issue which you choose at least in this post to ignore, preferring instead to pick apart other issues which you feel are somehow more important. OK, I can live with that.
---3) You believe that this was carried out by a team of at least 11 operatives, as indicated by the media---
13 by last count, but at least 11 that have been identified so far.
---4) You do not believe the operatives involved were professionals---
You can be professional in one way, but in another way you can lose credibility by making the most basic of mistakes, being seen committing a crime or otherwise an illegal act. I think that it is standard operating practice to NOT be seen which seems to goad a number of people here who feel that it was in fact a very professional hit despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Let me say this, if I hit you and everything on the surface looked great but I forgot to wear gloves then how professional would you think me after you were dead and buried? For that matter those that were left alive to make identifications and location identifications of me, thus putting me on a Red Notice and cornering me to a small scrub of land no bigger than say New Jersey for the rest of my life, would probably say that I was very unprofessional. You can't escape it Sir, it is the ultimate screw up to be seen committing any act that violates international laws or the laws of the country of operation when you are seen doing whatever it is you are doing. Granted in this showy world where YouTube makes people into instant sensations I am sure that many fall into the trap of "oh well," but truthfully being seen is the ultimate of screw ups.
--You've also made some comments about the importance of trust in the intelligence community. I'm not going to get into this quite yet as I feel it is an issue that deserves special attention.--
Much like you cannot convince me that this was a professional hit, you will not convince me that trust is just something people have in such circles. I have dealt with too many like-minded people, and some of them are very good friends of mine, but seriously I wouldn't trust them with my life for anything in the world. Not only that, but they carry that smell of death around them, that look that says they would kill you just as soon as look at you, professional or not. The one thing that they carry with them is the fact that killing to them is as normal as eating breakfast. And if someone paid them or ordered them to eliminate you they would do it, they may not like it, but they would do it, and you would probably never know why or when. That is a particular strange group of people, and in their world its just business no matter how close to you they are.
---Concerning believe #2 listed above: I do not know to what extent you belief a betrayal was involved. Was the betrayal nothing more than a leak of information, or was the entire operation orchestrated by members of his organization? I don't think this is terribly important though, my arguments stand either way.---
I think it is very important who betrayed him, because those are the real culprits. They live for the money, the power or whatever comes with the job, and at times it is usually that people are worse off when events such as betrayal come into play.
If one sells out the boss, who else will he sell out? The movement perhaps? Not only that, when one betrays it is a lifelong deal, as that person will bring more agents of betrayal into whatever movement he is involved in, be it an intelligence group or otherwise, until that group has been rendered ineffective or worse, totally wiped out by the initial betrayal..
--1) Taking into consideration points #1 and #2, we can safely assume that you believe the wheels of betrayal were in motion for some time before the actual hit.--
Assumptions based on experience, however that could mean someone as small as what has just been reported; which was a worker at the airport. However at times I have noted much Cointelpro at work during operations such as these which covers up the actual betrayer, and this is done to protect him and allow him to continue to move throughout the group in order to continue his betrayal of everything he used to believe in. So a worker at the airport I have some doubts of, but since I am not involved in that operation I can only speak from what I have seen myself in the past.
--2) Taking into consideration points #2 and #3, it's logical to assume that either a large number of operatives in his organization turned against him, or that a possibly far smaller number of people in his organization betrayed him to an existing organization that had a reason to see him dead.--
Usually a person becomes a liability at some point and needs removing. Sometimes its revenge, sometimes its to clean things up and allow others their turn at bat or sometimes its just because people become tired of the present leadership and desire a change. In this case everyone probably benefits. The resistance benefits because they can use his name for more acts of wanton violence. The Israelis get to claim another battle won, and those in his movement get to wipe the slate clean financially. Of course there are more reasons I am sure, but those are but just a few I can think of.
---3) Taking into consideration points #3 and #2, I believe it is fair to say you believe 11 people or were at least involved in the planning this operation for some time.---
According to the times article it says they trained in a hotel in Tel Aviv prior, and that they had made several prior trips to Dubai with him. I assume that was to give him a warm and fuzzy feeling about traveling there before the actual hit took place.
--4) combining point #4 with sub-point #2, it seems that you believe either the members of his organization that carried out the hit were not professionals, or that the organization that was contacted were not professionals.---
As stated many times already. I think the general consensus would be that the videos are too revealing and probably not a good thing professionally or career wise for those involved.
---5) combining point #4 with sub-point #3: You believe that a large number of people where able cooperate in planning and coordinating an attack on this mans life. They were able to successfully anticipate his movements, arrange for his protective detail to be absent, carry out the attack more or less as was planned a good deal of time before hand, and succeed in taking his life. And you believe that these people where not professionals.---
I could do the same to you, but if I left prints behind then it would be the same outcome. If you operate outside of a stealth mode when doing such things then you are basically playing cops and robbers with your picture everywhere for all to see. I am sure that the Israelis will pay for plastic surgery and millions of dollars to each member of the team, and making sure they are allowed to stay comfortable. However at the same time they have drawn Dubai into the conflict as well as cause countless operations to commence against more innocent people, and all for what? One guy? Hardly worth it in my opinion. But this is my opinion and not yours, so why does my opinion all of a sudden matter? Because I claim it was unprofessional when everything else met the test and standards for a professional job?
---This is where I have to stop for a minute and think. Sub-point #5 is a major issue for me. Either you have an extraordinarily high bar for professionals, or something else that I haven't accounted for is in play here.--
I think someone said once that
"You are part of a league of morons. Oh, yes. You see, you're one of the morons I've been fighting my whole life. My whole fucking life. But guess what... Today, I win."
I can relate to that quote more than you know. And I think in a way this relates to this very operation. Everything seemingly done professionally, yet, we have a multitude of mistakes that any sane person would call moronic. And those issues I listed on my website and you have read them I am sure, so no need to go over them here again.
Suffice it to say I think it was a moronic operation that will cost more than any of us will ever really know. And I think there will be so many payments for this stupidity that we will probably someday fill a volume of books about it one day.
--A bit on #1 before I get to the others. You cannot make your target walk around in shady areas of town where there will not be witnesses.--
He left in a car, they watched it happen. What about those missed opportunities? I think I know why they let that go on, because they already planned it would be a room hit, else why train in a hotel in Tel Aviv if it was one of those hit the ground running operations; whereby everyone has to think on their feet and wait for an opportune time eh?
---You seem to be asserting that the hit was unprofessional because it took place in a hotel and they didn't hire the cast of CSI to haxx0r the camera system.--
Now you are being insulting. Sir, I did not insult you or your posts, therefore I do not see the need for insults at this stage. This is a professional discussion, or at least I think it is, therefore I try to stay within those guidelines even though at times one wishes to step off and go a different direction with it. I have never said that above - nor have I ever alluded to that in any posts I have made so far. You are making that part up as you go along to hurl an insulting tone, as if somehow what I have to say is not worthy of discussion or of a decent reply. So, what does that make your debate or argument appear to be then? Professionally placed debate with with unprofessional statements mixed in to humiliate?
---I don't buy this rational at all,--
I don't either, and since it is your rationale and not mine I can completely agree here with you, your statement "CSI to haxx0r the camera system.--" has no rationale.
---and several other posts have been dedicated to why it doesn't make much sense. #2 is the trust discussion, which I'll let other handle.
First you said above that you will get into that part later, now you come in and say you will let others handle it. Why?
---3) They were fat. --
Two of them were indeed overweight. I don't know about you, but weight or obesity is a problem when it comes to being able to run or push things to the extreme. Look, this is murder or assassination, and in that business things can and often do go wrong when you least expect it. If getting away was important to the team or any of the team it wouldn't help for part of the kill team to be too fat to run more than half a block under pressure. Get my point? One guy can take down an entire operation, one guy..
Not only that, but it can also lead to a location or identify you, especially if you are on a Interpol warrant or have Red Notices on you. In standard law enforcement the guy robbing the bank was described as fat, he had a particular gait that makes him recognizable to those who will later look at the details for such anomalies. It is a clue is what I am saying. It denotes type, which denotes location information or better yet, where one might find such a person duly on the watch lists.
--Ok, now it _really_ seems like you are grasping for straws.--
As if details are unimportant. This is the state of the business today. Its damn the torpedo's and full steam ahead..That in and of itself also denotes a lack of professionalism. Details are sometimes the straw that breaks the camels back.
---Their physical fitness had absolutely nothing to do with why this mission allegedly was a failure.--
I never said it did. I made a mental note of it and posted it as a way to denote that there were further clues afoot.
--Had it actually come into play you could be sure everything had already gone FUBAR. Your assertions "Weight is a Western culture issue." and "at least those two on the kill team may spend time in America or maybe eat too much Western food" show bad taste and do little to constructively contribute to the discussion.--
I think it contributes to the overall discussion as it is a clue, much like the clue that one guy on the first kill team exited the hallway with what appeared to be large rubber gloves on, possibly yellow in color, when others who exited the hallway after the fact did not in fact wear any such gloves. That is a very important clue, especially if it was electric shocks applied to the target, because if it were, then we have our kill team member that applied them. I think that would be an issue that would actually be shown in a court. Correct me if I am wrong, but at times surveillance cameras are used as evidence in courtroom proceedings right?
--I'm done here. I am quoting that one in full because I don't want anyone to think that I am playing tricks with paraphrasing. You are asserting that it is unprofessional to not give the target a fair fight. This is so many kinds of absurd I barely even know where to begin!--
It is a personal issue with me. One in which I apologize to you and others here that I may have offended you or them by saying it or interjecting it into the conversation. It was a personal thing with me..
---This last point is a very important one in my opinion. I am sticking with my original assertion that you are too emotionally involved to critically analyze the situation.---
Wrong. I am as cool and calm and collected as I have ever been. I have been analyzing the details, and in that I find the mistakes outweigh the things that were done right. Sorry if that bugs you, but again, it is just one persons opinion and nothing more.
---It is political for you, even if you may not realize it yourself,---
I do realize it, and you are at this point very correct, which also is not very professional of me is it?
---and your adherence to such poorly thought out arguments just reinforces my point.---
I think that I have tried to elucidate a very well thought out argument, and at times I have been off a bit here and there, but overall I think I am dead on. The operation was a failure. A failure because people were identified in the course of their operation, not one or two mind you, but almost the ENTIRE team was identified.
That in my book makes it a failure. In your book however it is a success. May god grant you the wisdom Sir, may he grant you the wisdom..
Thank you very much for your post, I enjoyed reading and responding to it very much.
As to the physical fitness of the assassins, it seems to me that they were cast pretty carefully.
Arguably the most dangerous part of the entire mission was following the target from the check-in desk to his room. He had to be followed extremely closely and would have been seen by both the target and the check-in girl.
So in my opinion was a really good idea to use a short, fat dude standing there with his tennis racket and looking like a complete schmuck. If both of the tennis guys had been lean, fit, athletic types they would have been much more suspicious running for the elevator then following the target to his room.
People expect professional assassins to be physically fit so it makes sense to use an out-of-shape guy for the most exposed role.
By contrast, there were two team members -- Kevin and Gail - who appear to play the role of distractors. There job was to monitor the hallway outside of the target's room and distract anyone who wandered in. I think it's no accident that they were both slim, fit, (relatively) attractive people.
Peter is another example of good casting. Apparently his job was simply to book the correct room. I would guess he is an older looking guy, a bit heavy but not fat. Probably he speaks Arabic fluently and would have an easy time booking the room he wanted without arousing any suspicion. He's kinda like the Saul character in Ocean's 11.
Very good points. In a way that is at times just how it is set into play, casting...I looked at it the same way, and also put myself there in the elevator with them when they all got in to check which room. The thinner guy with the racket, presumably younger did the follow through. There was some confusion about which one was set to go faster or closer to the hallway with the guy on the right being pressed into play while the fatter guy played like a clueless tennis player who was looking for his room, and then moments later when the staff lady came into play he talked to her and was acting like he was waiting for his friend to get back from his room, even though he had no room to go to. I half imagined the banter between the two of them with the staff woman almost looking like she was being flirted with by the fatter guy. It looked to me as if he was complementing her in some way and she almost bowed or did a curtsy to him as if she knew he was being cute with her.
After watching the video several times on end, a few other thoughts arise:
1. The surprisingly large team size was mainly because they were running around all over the place trying to find their victim. Once they definitely knew they had him, fully half of the eighteen suspects were out of the picture, leaving 4 spotters, 4 assassins, and another guy whose role is unknown. It is likely 4 assassins were used in order to physically overpower the victim without leaving too many marks; if they wanted to be less subtle, no doubt they could have made do with one.
2. Much of the accompanying commentary is speculation. Perhaps in some cases there was more data that was not visible in the excerpts that they have chosen to show, but in other cases there is simply no way they could have known it.
3. The "special communications device" used by Short Tennis Guy looks a lot like an ordinary smartphone. The "special communications device" used by Floppy Hat Woman is impossible to make out in the scene they emphasise, but in the previous scene where she is coming through the rotating door, it looks quite a bit like an iphone.
4. Assuming they have checked the footage carefully to ensure they are not confusing him with someone else, it seems pretty clear that "Kevin" disguised himself. However the claim that "Gail" did so is a bit stretched: she lets out her ponytail, and takes off the big sunglasses that were covering much of her face, thus making herself *less* disguised. She had previously had her hair undone in the shopping centre, too. In fact she mainly seems to tie it up when going out on the streets, and lets it out when in commercial areas.
It is also claimed that one of the unnamed operatives arrived at the Al-Bustan in a baseball cap and switched to a wig in the elevator. From the footage shown, I would say it is equally plausible that when he got out of the hot sun he just took off his cap.
5. While the Dubai police seem to have done a pretty fair job of piecing together the team's activities, either there is a lot missing or they didn't want to show it. Basically watching the stream of video gives an impression of heavy coverage, but when you work out the detailed timeline, the coverage is not so much patchy as sparse.
6. The most interesting gap in activity, however, is *after* they check in to the Al-Bustan. After the victim's hotel was identified, it took 55 minutes before any non-surveillance operative even arrived at the correct hotel. In the meantime, the victim had left the hotel and would not return for 4 hours. After Kevin finally moved into room 237 at 16:44, over the next 3 h 16 min, six more agents gradually filtered into the room, but nothing else happened until the suspected attempt to open the door to the victim's empty room. What the heck were they doing, with 6 people just sitting in that room for hours? If they were just playing cards whilst waiting for him to return, why did they eventually try to finesse his door (if they did)?
7. Kevin disguised himself at 13:45, and then checked in at a second wrong hotel at 14:14. But to check in to the hotel, he had to show his passport. Which no longer matched his appearance.
8. How did Peter book an international flight over the phone without using credit?
9. Another thing that puzzles me with the disguises is simply "why"? SO far as I can make out, the only reasons for Kevin (and arguably Gail) to alter their appearance between their previous hotels, and going to the Al-Bustan without checking in, is either:
a) to be less memorable to anyone they encountered whilst on hall duty. But that would only make sense if they didn't realise they were being filmed the whole time. Meaning, they goofed.
b) because unlike the rest of the team they would move around the Al-Bustan with their faces clearly showing, so they disguised themselves so that when their footage was found in the Al-Bustan during an investigation, it wouldn't be back-tracked to their previous activities, and thence to their passports. But in that case it was vital that their quick change acts not be caught on camera. Meaning, they goofed. OR
c) knowing that they were the most exposed, they just wanted to slow down the face spotting enough to give them time to get on their plane. But they boarded a flight that would not land for 7 hours. Meaning, they goofed.
10. They didn't exactly rush to leave the country afterwards: although "Peter" (whose name was attached to the room used for a base) left before the estimated time of death, and "Kevin" and "Gail" (arguably the most exposed) left within 2 hours of it, the others were still straggling out as much as 12 hours later, only a couple of hours before the door was forced by hotel staff. Some of those who did leave within a few hours caught very long distance flights that would not land for 7½ hours.
11. It is claimed that Dubai now has their retinal scans on record. A small correction: although some reports seem to confuse retinal and iris scans in the UAE, the consensus seems to be that they actually do iris scans. This is also the more technically plausible option.
"First you said above that you will get into that part later, now you come in and say you will let others handle it. Why? "
I intend on commenting on this matter at a later on when I have more time to dedicate to this. There was no contradiction in my meaning, though my wording could have been more clear.
"Why is this a decision of judgment for you to post your thoughts?"
Because of this:
"Much like you cannot convince me that this was a professional hit, you will not convince me that trust is just something people have in such circles."
You have no interest in what others have to say because you have already made up your mind.
The French sponsored a group of their own operatives to blow up "an enemy vessel". In performing the operation, the operatives murdered someone (and weren't that good at avoiding notice or capture). The French went to extraordinary lengths to force New Zealand to free their operatives (to spend a little time in "a French prison" on a nice tropical island). I don't think that states view state sponsored murder and cleaning up the evidence in quite the same way as you. Sometimes I get the impression that they take the "it pays to advertise" approach
I remain mystified as to why the Mossad, assuming it was them, would "steal" the identities of their own country's citizens.
About them switching hotels... That doesn't seem like something that would help them (e.g. to avoid surveillance during the operation, or to confuse investigators afterwards). So why did they do it? Maybe they just wanted to have a look at a bunch of hotels?
Suppose they got their intel a day or two before the trip, and knew that he would travel there, but not which hotel he would stay in? It might make sense for them to recon several likely hotels, checking the type of the door locks, and whether there are cameras covering the hallways and the doors into the rooms, and any other details that might be important to the plan (or to choose their tactics in the first place).
I also wonder about him arriving without his guards.. a resourceful agency that found out about his trip a day or two in advance, might have been able to engineer a situation where he arrived to buy tickets and was told there was only one seat left on the plane.
RE: "On another point I have to wonder if Dubai security wasn't at least aware of this as it was going down given how quickly this video was assembled and released." and "It's possible the authorities knew they were there, but crucially, didn't know who the target was, as the target was there on a false passport too."
Did anyone else notice the tall guy tailing Kevin at about 5:00 into the second tape (16:14 on the tape from Dubaisession.com on You Tube)? I say tailing him because he's following pretty closely on Kevin's heels, and oddly, his face is pixelated to protect his identity. Why would the authorities do that when they didn't block out anyone else's identity EXCEPT for the "hotel guest" who happens to get off the elevator at time of the killing? Why pixelate only these two people's faces?
@thecoldspy at February 21, 2010 1:51 PM
Thank you for the debate and I hope I can address some of the points you have raised:
1 - Trust
"Let me just state that cross agencies are always at cross purposes. One agency, say the FBI, doesn't trust the other agency CIA, and the SS doesn't trust the FBI, nor do the agents running around between them, and this is just domestically."
This is a different argument entirely. Inter-agency issues are fairly common but rarely are the sole cause for any failure (normally simple mistakes are the cause).
However the original point was about operators trusting the organisation they work for. This is not about Mossad trusting the CIA or whatever, it is about people Mossad ask to go into harms way having some trust that their organisation will be there for them. Believe it or not, this is normally actually the case. Most Governments will go to great lengths to repatriate and protect their covert operators. Failure to do so will pretty much ensure that every future operations fails. This is supported by historical examples from times when agencies lost the trust of their operators.
Also, again its not really the case that covert operators keep their families in the total dark about their job. It just doesnt work like that. Their immediate familiy will know what agency they work for (a given and acceptable risk) but there may be some vagueness over the exact nature of their duties but compartmentalisation of information does not mean there is "no trust." It is a sensible risk management strategy.
Traitors, and the insider threat, is only effective because there is trust in place. We trust the vetting proces, we trust the loyalty, we trust the detective controls etc.
Trust, novels aside, is fairly crucial to the functioning of any agency, including the intelligence ones. Yes trust creates vulnerability but we have to manage this risk and move on. Dont allow the insignificantly small breaches of trust to destroy the system. Every day, in every intelligence agency in the world things that would make the news are going on. Such a small percentage of this leaks because, on the whole, people *are* trustworthy.
Going back to the original claim - the idea that any agency not headed up by Stalin himself would kill off operators who were compromised (even though it is a successful mission) is, quite frankly, insane. Do it once and have no more operators.
2 - Operational techniques
"I don't agree. Operating in full view of the cameras is operating poorly. Never reveal, and if you do, close it down and wait for another opportunity when you will not reveal yourself."
Erm, no. It is not operating poorly. It is operating in the real world. Try moving around any major city in the world and certainly through any port without being in view of cameras.
Better still, try operating in these areas and hiding from the cameras. Within seconds you will draw enough attention to compromise any hope you may have had.
The only effective solution is, as always, to act like a normal person. Remember if the target had, as seems to have been planned, be thought to have died in his sleep not one second of footage would have been scanned.
It is very, very rare for a team to be put out with enough autonomy to close things down and wait for a future where there is less CCTV coverage.
What would waiting have brought them?
"The kill team had some issues too. Two of them were overly fat, and probably couldn't run down the block in an emergency because of that. Study their weight and body fat ratios."
Really? What problems did these issues cause? Have you seen their fitness test results? What was their weight?
In all bureaucratic organisations there are people with many different body types and levels of body fat. Dont be misguided into thinking all covert operators have to look like Matt Damon in Bourne.
I have seen portly surveillance officers move with surprising speed when needed. and they have a big advantage of "blending in" a lot more than the chiseled Adoinis types. Plus, what was the role of the fat guys. Did they need to be able to physically subdue a struggling victim? If so, body weight can help.
"I just do not know how you can say that. Having your entire team and the entire operation on camera now in full view of the public worldwide is not doing a job well done."
Well, you dont know that the "entire team" has been caught on camera.
The target appears to have been achieved. The operators all (we assume) made it home safely. What was unprofessional in their conduct? What did they do that caused their mission to fail? What did they do that allowed their identities to be revealed?
To me it was as professional a job as you would ever expect to see.
"[me]Obviously this risk was deemed to be acceptable.[/me]
And the fallout? The retaliations? The International uproar? The only people who really benefit are the resistance, as they can now use this as ammunition for countless jihads and a wave of murders and bombings that will surely follow all in his name. I do not call that an acceptable risk."
Well, unless you are the director of operations its not your call as to what is acceptable and what isnt.
I never meant to imply any of the repercussions were the intended result, just that the risk of them happening was judged to be acceptable. There is a significant difference there.
If the victim had, as seems to have been the plan, been thought to have died in his sleep, nothing would have come of it. Surely you would say that is an acceptable risk?
This means that who ever gave the go-ahead for this decided the chances of that part of the plan failing (with the ensuing repercussions *) was low enough to go ahead with the operation.
It didnt work, so they get to live with the consequences. The joy of risk management.
(*) From a Mossad point of view, it hardly makes the situation any worse for them, does it?
3 - Numbers
"Yet we are still asked to believe that JFK was murdered by a lone gunmen."
Hmm. Conspiracy theories R Us is calling here.
There is no similarity between the two. Its like saying why did it need a whole Army to kill Saddam Hussain and, if one person can kill JFK why is Osama Bin Laden still hiding?
The fact is, in Dubai, the need seems to have been for a fairly covert, low key mission which involves surveillance, techical expertise, administrative support, communications and control - let alone the actual kill team. In the real world that isnt done by one person.
The JFK assassination was based on a known route with an assassin who appears to have had no real plans to escape. Conflating the two is madness.
"The bonus being that 11 or more people are now wanted for murder, the resistance now has a martyr for countless retaliation moves being planned this very minute, and a host of YouTube videos to study every move made by those who made them. Bonus? I think not."
Yet we still have no idea how many were involved in country in total. For various reasons people are *always* planning retaliation attacks so I doubt this will have changed anything.
You still seem to assume the plan was for this to end up going public. Nothing the operators on the ground did compromised themselves. Nothing about the numbers involved compromised the mission.
"Because stealth is still an integral part of operating. Never let them see you come in and never let them see you leave. If you cannot follow those rules then you should wait for a better opportunity or just quit and move onto something else as your too video happy or in too much of a rush or have too much of a desire to please those above you."
All sounds very good but simply does not describe real world situations.
Put surveillance on an even reasonably aware target and you will cycle through a team of 12 in almost no time. In an urban environment its likely that within a day these will have been exposed to the target and cant be reused. Try doing it with one person.
Attempt to contain a target long enough for your needs (arrest, approach or in this case assassination) in an urban environment without surveillance and you are doomed to failure.
Now, taking the meat of your comment did the intended target see the team coming or leaving? Probably not. Success then.
" I want to rent a few places in advance just in case. I want to have access to passports and better disguises. I want to know that my safe houses have enough food in them for a long stay in case I get hot and need to lay low for an extended time. I want to know people in the city and beyond I can use for transport. I want them to know me as a regular Joe too so if something goes wrong and one of my disguises gets blown I can safely blend into the environment for awhile without causing too much problem."
How do you know none of this was done?
"In other words, I don't want to depend too much on others for my safety in a jam, team or no team."
Good for you but it doesnt work that way. It simply doesnt. No one has enough time in their life to learn all the required skills on their own.
"And room quality means that screaming out can cause people to come out of their rooms to see what is going on."
Very, very rare.
"There are also fire exits at each end of the hallway. Plus you have elevators with people coming and going, and any one of them can potentially screw your operation up if something goes wrong in the first 10 seconds of entry."
Yes, but in his room this is all mitigated against.
"What if Mahmoud al-Mabhouh had a gun at the ready, and when they entered the room the gun went off or he fired several rounds while they were in the process of taking him down? I would say that the hotel room with its thin walls and rooms on either side of the target room could in fact be more problematic than operating in another location."
The wonders of an operational risk assessment.
Not one of these risks is mitigated by a street killing and I suspect part of the target saturation was to reduce these risks to a level deemed acceptable for the mission.
"I would say there was plenty of gambling going on with the people calling the shots on the ground, and now they have paid the price for it. They were seen."
There is always gambling going on in any task.
I would ask though, what price have they actually paid? The mission appears to have been a success.
This is the year 2010, you cant go anywhere without being "seen" - the key is to not let that result in your task failing or the "bad people" catching you.
4 - Death
"Wrong. The murder would have been revealed during the autopsy, and that was already known. Thus it was already a given that this operation would result in failure because it would be seen as a homicide. Those running it were operating in a rush, with too much adrenaline, and stepped way over the line operationally."
Well, we will have to disagree here. As far as I understand it, most "death in bed" where there is no signs of violence or struggle, will not result in a full autopsy.
"The evidence that people get killed daily and no one knows to this day who did it or why."
Well this isnt really evidence that assassination teams work better than this example, is it?
In a nutshell, Mossad or not (and I think Mossad) this appears to be an assassination attempt that achieved its goals.
All the bleating about this or that being a problem or Guy X being "too fat" to do his job is irrelevant.
Every armchair spook does things differently, but the fact is that decisions made by people under pressure, on the ground, will often look different to those sitting at a computer writing about it.
PS: Sorry for the excessive post length. If there are any replies I will try to make them more manageable.
> Why pixelate only these two people's faces?
I think you're mistaken. There are several other examples, starting right at the beginning when Michael & James check in to their hotel. In fact, I think people's faces are always pixelated if they got a good look at a suspects face, *and* their face is clearly visible on the video. In other words, it is to protect witnesses.
There seems to be one exception to this rule: mostly hotel staff are facing away from the camera, but a few times they get filmed and not pixelated. Most notably the Filipina porter who speaks to Short Tennis Guy gets pretty clearly filmed.
(Sorry some more SIWOTI)
"In standard law enforcement the guy robbing the bank was described as fat, he had a particular gait that makes him recognizable to those who will later look at the details for such anomalies."
This is the same for any build or gait. Describe the robbers as atheletic, musclar, gymnastic, anything...
If we take your claim that people in the west tend to be overweight, then it makes more sense to use an apparently fat operator as it becomes less of a discriminatory trait.
If you were a Russian dissident and you kept seeing tall, muscular blonde men in stripy t-shirts, you'd be pretty sure it was soon going to be game over. However, the fat guy in a bowler hat who stabs your leg is less of an obvious threat.
Intelligence operators, even Mossad "hit men" are not Universal Soldier super commandos. Most are typical desk jockey types who are used to working the diplomatic / CEO circuit rather than snorkling in from covert submarines.
Excellent post. Thank you for your breakdown, it was most illuminating.
As for armchair, I agree, which is why I post what I feel to be the case on the ground as I see it should be. Try 3rd world work, it's amazing in how different it is between first world work. At any rate, thank you for the time you spent on that presentation. Same goes for jgreco, which I also truly enjoyed reading, and all the rest who have replied to the various comments I have made.
I think that I have pretty much exhausted my talking points, and defended them as well to the best of my ability. So I think from here I need to get back to work lol. So I will move on from here and let others speak, as I was beginning to feel that I was drowning out everyone else by some of these posts I made. Again, I thank all of you for such great posts, and if anyone needs to clarify anything else with me, you can email me and I will do my best to respond there. Regards all, and thank you for allowing my posts here and reading them as well.
The press has suggested that the operation was blown by a landline telephone call from one of the members of the team to someone local in Dubai that the Dubai authorities were watching. Dubai police found this via police work and they then pieced together the plot from that item.
Some members of the identified team arrived in Dubai before Mabhouh left Syria. Two were waiting for him in Dubai airport for example.
Some press accounts indicate that Mabhouh had rented a Toyota Land Cruiser but that it had been compromised by a beacon. I dont think this is accurate. Taxis are easy, cheap, and plentiful. And secure if you ensure your taxi is a random choice and not forced.
Mabhouh's trip to a mall buy shoes is a common practice to detect surveillance.
The tapes seem to reveal at least one other person (a second woman). Press accounts indicate that the team might have included 20 plus people including locals for logistics support.
UK and Irish passports at least are printed by the Harrisons subsidiary of Delarue, a listed company in the UK. Delarue also print money for among others the UK.
It would be interesting to know what currencies the team spent and if any counterfeits were picked up at the same time.
Using "friendly" identities is low cost, low risk and deniable method of getting a passport. There is a long documented history of this, eg Ben Tov.
Press accounts indicate that the lamp in the room had been disassembled. Perhaps this was for a power source for a taser like device assembled from innocuous parts smuggled in to Dubai. We have been through Dubai hundreds of times and have been stopped only once for secondary screening despite regularly carrying phones, radios, computers, GPS, binoculars, sat phones etc.
Dubai Hotels, especially the Al Bustan Rotana, are more than willing to accommodate any guests request, especially for a particular room.
Dubai is a pervasive total surveillance environment--not just CTV. All phones can be routinely monitored and tracked in real time. The devices the team was using might not have been track-able, hence the Dubai authorities considering them unusual.
There are other dangers to Mossad in the uncovering of this plot:
1) Previous operations in Dubai/UAE/elsewhere which had not been detected may be detected now after additional police work.
2) The method of waiting for the lone target to return to his room has been compromised. This can be defeated by always keeping one or more trusted members in the room.
3) All passports issued to dual nationals may now be subject to additional scrutiny making operations more difficult to execute.
Is it just me or is Clive being rather quiet on this matter?
@Greensquirrel - thanks for some highly illuminating posts.
I see what you mean about the people in tape 1, although it's strange that they would have pixelated the tall guy hailing a cab after Kevin but not the heavyset gentleman, in the cut right after that, who proceeds to watch four or five of the agents get into a cab.
It could just be that the tech handling the video got lazy, but it's more fun to think there was a bit of spy vs. spy action going on.
I have not managed to read all the posts but there are some things that puzzle me in this case.
Why not a safe house? You had attempts on your head and you know Mossad will not stop, and your SAFE option is to use a Public Hotel ???? Sounds like complacency or old age.
The tennis guys. OK, disguise, but they stand out like a sore thumb. First one guy is right next to the Hamas guy when he checks in, then the two pile into the elevator when the girl takes Hamas guy to his room, THEN they get off on the same floor, then one of them goes down the corridor that deadends so it is not like you can go around the corner and get out of sight. That is 4 coincidences which I would think a good SPY would notice if he was looking out for being followed. This would have looked different if 2-3 people from the team got into the elevator, two got off on the same floor as Hamas and went to their room. Under the pretext of looking for the key stayed in the corridor to get a fix of where Hamas room is. One looking, the other thumbling for the key.
I have to assume the Hamas guy just wasn't very sharp in noticing this sort of pattern.
The use of hats in this operation is also a bit "out of place" but perhaps that is due to the fact that we are just focusing on the hit team.
Facinating watching how they set this up and in some way seems close to what they show on the show SPOOKS on BBC.
I also agree with the opinion that the team succeeded. Initial view of what happened was that it was a medical problem. They left the country and will not be touched. As someone said, they will probable get desk jobs in the country that sent them.
It is still not clear to me if the hit team knew the floor where Hamas would be prior to Hamas arriving. This would imply the room being selected by the hptel prior to the arrival of the guest. If not, then the Team would need to try to get a room AFTER Hamas arrival. Some here is not clear.
Could this team have been sent by Iran to make it look like Mossad as one of their scientists and probable more people have recently been mysteriously sent off this planet? In this case the team are hired agents so as to distance themselves as much as possible. Now this case presents tricky issues to those who hired them and the hit team. The hit team would be worried because for sure they would not have been given the name of the target prior to arriving in Dubai.
Facinating puzzle !!!! I suspect it is being discussed and used as a homework excersise in Spook Schools around the world.
Three quick comments I'd like to add to this discussion:
* There can be no doubt that this operation was undertaken opportunistically and on short notice.
This is indicated by the fact that the operators arrived within hours of each other, and within hours of the target. This extremely compressed time span is what made it feasible for the Dubai authorities to reassemble so much of the operation from surveillance tape. If the operators had days to prepare, they would have trickled into the country well in advance, leaving the authorities with an intractably larger and decaying surveillance record to sift through.
* The sponsors of the operation recognized and accepted the likelihood that the operators would have to give up fieldwork following the operation.
This follows directly from the short operational timeline. Knowing that the team would not have time to mitigate its exposure to Dubai's ubiquitous surveillance, the only way they could have hoped to escape portraiture was if the murder went unrecognized as such for long enough that the surveillance record to decay. Considering the target's identity, this was extremely unlikely, and this is reflected in the execution of the operation.
(Also, is it just me, or does this group look middle-aged, as if retirement wouldn't be far off in any case?)
* We see evidence that the sponsor organization has local resources who provided logistical support, but kept well clear of surveillance.
Note for example that two of the operators went to the same hotel for no other purpose than to change disguises. This probably indicates that the hotel bathroom was cased in advance by a local operative as part of a general program of identifying convenient places to gain a moment's privacy around town.
Another good way for local operatives to occupy their time is to identify the type of locks used at every major hotel in town. The home office will keep the safehouse stocked with the corresponding picking devices.
Also available from the safehouse would be weapons and any implements that would be considered too suspicious to carry through airport security in a zero-notice operation such as this one.
What I'd like to know is whether the hotel staff noticed the attempt to reprogram the door. I presume that nobody spotted the attempt to "write" the electronic lock until after the event (21:41 in the video.) Might a better alerting system, such as a pager, have given the hotel staff better warning of something wrong thus drastically reducing the escape window?
Well well, more "data" is coming out and it would seem to imply that it is the Mossad.
This is all starting to look like "stick it to Mossad" by the Dubai (Arabs).
Putting all this information out there in full view implies
a) we had nothing to do with this
b) "Look, it is the Mossad"
Wow, someone will make a movie out of this and I hope it is the French.
EU Council statement on the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh (in 22 languages)
"The EU is committed to ensuring that both EU citizens and countries around the world
continue to have confidence in the integrity of EU Member States' passports. It believes
that its passports remain among the most secure in the world fully meeting all international
standards. EU Member States' passports include a range of physical security measures to
prevent forgery and abuse.” "
"From 2012 passport chips will also include an individual's fingerprints, which will introduce an additional level of security. Identity cards, which are already being issued to British Citizens to travel in Europe include fingerprints and photographs."
There were 11 passport photos and 14 or more people caught on tape, but only 3 of the people on tape are connected to the passports. So how did they know those identities were the assassins?
There's a pretty high correlation between being identified and not wearing a hat. Only three people (at least at the final hotel) weren't wearing hats, all upstairs; and two of them were identified as Kevin and Gail. Peter wore a hat, but had no chance of avoiding identification.
So hats and disguises worked pretty well, but Kevin and Gail were caught changing at a third hotel. How did the police figure that out? Why weren't they able to do it with the others?
This was a movement of opportunity, guaranteed. Real operations by agencies world wide (Mossad and CIA etc share lots of similar tactics) have massive operators. I'm talking for example, over 100 persons involved in a break-in op. Also, training that simulates these types of situations is often undertaken without host country knowledge, and it is very possible this was a setup to completely cover up who might have really done the killing.
I'm not really surprised by the size of the surveillance/hit team.
It may sound ludicrous, but an average surveillance team (at least where I'm from) consists of five teams of two -- often with a sixth team in reserve who can be swapped-in immediately to replace any team that is suspected to have been "burned."
The purpose of such a large team is to allow the lead pair to be rotated frequently to keep fresh eyes on the target, and to lessen the chance of any one face being seen too often.
Just a short note on the "tradecraft" of following someone from an elevator to determine which room they're in:
I technique I was taught was to follow the subject out of the elevator to the hallway (elevator lobbies are usually mid-floor), then head the opposite way down the hallway away from the subject... maintaining a steady pace while counting the seconds until you hear their door open/close.
Return to the point where you split off, and walk the same number of seconds in the direction the subject took to arrive at their door.
It's not perfect, but room doors are usually spaced several seconds walking time apart, so it's accurate enough to narrow it down to one of two opposite rooms. Or the exact room if you're lucky and the opposite doorways are staggered.
Wonder if it's possible that they attached a skimming type device to a hotel door lock (obviously would need to have a set of pre-made devices for the most common door lock types), to affix to the door to copy working keys. If they also have the ability to read keys to see what their expiration dates are, they could get copies of most hotel room keys in advance. It could also be done quickly by requesting that hotel staff service your room in the hotel.
According to the video, the victim leaves the hotel at 16:23, shortly after checking in to his room. According to the locklink printout, while he is out, at 19:00 his room is accessed by "Maid", and then at 19:05 his room is accessed by "Laundry". What is the chance his room was accessed by Laundry only a few hours after he checked in, and several hours after he left his room? Two such accesses one after another... wonder if one or the other of these were the operatives. These accesses were shortly after the video demonstrates the presumed "execution teams" entering the hotel at 18:43.
Back when I was a stereo repair tech (back in the 60's or so), we found out some interesting things.
For anything common but a bit hard to make, just about all the stereo manufacturers went to the same source for say, cassette deck mechanics, then branded and packaged them their own way. Often the exact same mechanism was used in both cheap and expensive decks, which was cause of some laughter at the bench.
I personally would be very surprised to find out the hotel room lock business operated in any other way. Economies of scale and all that.
You remind me a great deal of someone we recently threw off another polite forum I inhabit, for overlong trolls, always having to be right on every point no matter how obvious it is you're not. I have no idea of Bruce's tolerance level, it must be higher than mine (he's put up with me, after all), but I bet you're walking on some pretty thin ice.
All that junk made this thread hard to read. Please refrain from what amounts to bullying and trolling here.
He who screws-up least, wins.
> Well well, more "data" is coming out and it would seem to imply that it is the Mossad.
What on earth are you talking about? That article is about an assassination that occurred over 30 years ago!! It only mentions the recent Dubai assassination in passing, and provides no new "data" about it at all.
Possibly you were confused by the juxtaposition of the photographs of Erika Chambers and the Dubai suspect who used the alias "Gail Folliard". If so, you should realise that the picture of Erika Chambers is an extremely old file photo. Erika Chambers is now in her sixties, and most certainly is not "Gail Folliard."
To the contrary, all new data is making it increasingly *less* likely that it was a Mossad operation. Specifically several suspects have been arrested, and they are all Palestinian Arabs. Two of them are from Fatah. Fatah is a rival faction to al-Mabhouh's Hamas faction, and recently bore the brunt of a lot of Hamas killings.
Further breaking news: the Dubai police chief has now publicly admitted that Hamas members were involved with the assassination, although bizarrely continues to claim that it was a Mossad operation. Hamas leaders have denied all knowledge but refused to co-operate in the Dubai investigation -- and further muddied the waters by suggesting that as well as Israel, they also suspect Jordan and Egypt.
In many ways, Fatah pulling this hit makes more sense.
Perhaps the only role Israel or some other intelligence groups, was information to Fatah, who, how, when, etc.
Not a bad way for an intelligence group, just steer the people who hate each other.
Not a bad way to deal with the new world disorder, and the ever present cameras.
I find it odd that there are so many comments boggling at the fact that Al-Mabhouh's door was chained and bolted from the inside. If the commentators here had watched a magic show involving the exact same feat (e.g. David Blaine follows a volunteer to their hotel room, opens the door, closes the door behind a curtain, removes the curtain, and reveals the door is now locked and chained, with no one inside) a far greater proportion of people would sit back and say to themselves "hmm, it's some trick, I wonder how it works". Rather than "wow! that's surely impossible!"
Personally I can think of several ways to manage this trick, most of them involving manipulating the lock and chain from the other side of the door using some sort of contraption (a clever arrangement of string perhaps) that passes underneath the door. Also, considering that the dead bolt was probably actuated via a lever on the inside and a key on the outside, a simple matter of lock-picking (taking a matter of seconds for trained professionals) would suffice to set the bolt, that simplifies the problem to just the chain, which I'm sure people can imagine various methods of working this trick.
> I find it odd that there are so many comments boggling at the fact that
> Al-Mabhouh's door was chained and bolted from the inside. If the
> commentators here had watched a magic show involving the exact same feat
> (e.g. David Blaine follows a volunteer to their hotel room, opens the door,
> closes the door behind a curtain, removes the curtain, and reveals the door
> is now locked and chained, with no one inside) a far greater proportion of
> people would sit back and say to themselves "hmm, it's some trick, I
> wonder how it works". Rather than "wow! that's surely impossible!"
I don't think anyone is thinking it is impossible, but merely asking for suggestions on how this could be done.
I especialy picked up on,
"We will seek to make contact with these individuals and offer consular assistance as we have the previous individuals,"
Made by "a spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said on condition of anonymity in line with government policy."
Two interesting points,
The first is "consular assistance" this is not available inside the UK.
So either these persons are on holiday and have had their passports stolen very recently. Or they have moved / emigrated to another country...
I wonder if that is Israel?
The second is that the implication of this is that the UK Gov have reason to think all of these passports are genuine without further investigation.
Which paints a rather interesting picture.
a) "I have to assume the Hamas guy just wasn't very sharp in noticing this sort of pattern."
Or he did notice it, and went for the walk to confirm his suspicions of being followed. When he didn't see the tennis guys on his walk, or when he got back to the hotel, he assumed that it was all just a co-incidence.
4 sightings of the same person would certainly have spooked me, and I don't doubt that it would have spooked the victim here as well.
b) It is misleading to say that these people have been identified. All that we know is what they roughly look like. Many features of the passport photos tell me that they were taken with a view to easily alter their appearance.
People who know these people in Israel or wherever else will probably only think 'wow, that person looks a lot like xyz, but there is no way it is him/her'
c) there is a lot of the timeline that isn't filled in - such as where were the non-active teams stationed while waiting for their turn on shift, or waiting for the hit. Also, some of the teams remained in Dubai for up to 12 hours after the hit - where did they stay? It wasn't at either of the 3 hotels.
d) a slide in the video shows that each phone sent SMS's to a different number in Austria, which served as the command center. The commonality is the use of SMS and the destination being Austria - I think there must have been something else that the police are not revealing that lead them to link all of the suspects together. The SMS's to/from the command center must have been encrypted.
The same slide shows that they all used foreign SIM cards - those accounts are likely to be followed up.
e) judging from the room access printout, it seems the team eventually gained entry using a staff key, and entered the room twice - not sure why the police were not more explicit about this point since it is printed right there on the room access log.
f) I also wasted a lot of time reading/skimming 'thecoldspy's posts - I believe that the border-line trolling should be deleted for the benefit of all those, such as myself, who are only now reading this thread.
Borderline trolling? I think I have offered plenty to the general discussion Mr Black, and I doubt that deleting posts that were relevant would be of interest just because two people do not agree with parts of it. A troll is someone who comes on to stir up anger or whatever and then leave. I spent quality time on these posts, which were not trolling, despite a two poster troll in the nature of Doug Coulter (DC) claiming he has many posts here when all I have found are two in the last 4 years - or for that matter yourself, claiming you had to read them and feel that you should have a say when posts are deleted because you had to read them. How about if I made the same request about your posts? If you don't wish to read a post Mr.0 Black, skip it and move down the page. Also what does that say when you wish delete posts that are in fact relevant? Covering up maybe? For what I might ponder?
At any rate I have been very civil here and made a number of posts that were in fact very interesting, one of which showed that it was in fact a high level person that betrayed the victim. Of course you can't see that if you didn't read it. There are also many other things going on as well that have proven a few points I have made. A number of legal scholars have chimed in on other news sites that have made the bold claim that it looked like a bungled job to them, and was in fact possibly illegal for them to do such an act.
At any rate, there it is.
I dont think "legal scholars" have any more insight into how to mount an overseas intelligence job than anyone else.
Also, I think the fact its "illegal" is almost a given. Assassination is rarely officially sanctioned.
I didn't say they had any more insight green, I said they refuted the standard claims made here throughout most of the posts claiming somehow that what happened was in fact a legal or justifiable killing. Very good points though Green. Very good. You have a keen insight I find very interesting and worthwhile to read.
Also, I think we have seen that the original story posted above where Victor Ostrovsky claimed that the operation looked to him to have been in haste has been refuted now. It has been shown I think that it was a very well planned operation that took almost a year to plan and execute, which did in fact involve more than the original 11 suspects.
If you look at this further, in a way you can see two strange parallels, one, the victim gave up his own security trusting that he did not need it. And two, the security of the hit team gave up their anonymity in carrying out the hit. Both issues seem to highlight or maybe complement one another, with both victim and kill team failing to some degree to protect themselves from what eventually happened. Irony? I think so.
I don't understand how they expected to get away with it. I guess they didn't expect the photos to be published and so quickly. They knew about the cameras at the airport and the hotel.
These people have a problem because, whoever they are, they have family and neighbors who may come forward if they recognized someone. That would blow their cover.
Not sure I get the 007 "only takes one person to do the job." Makes no sense.
Many pairs or small groups of people do NOT know who the other people are and have never met each other except their immediate counterparts.
Each pair/group may not even know what the target is or their exact mission. Knowing this is a huge liability for their employer and mission.
If security pulled aside a suspicious pair/group for interrogation - they cannot reveal the identities of the other players and the operation will be jeopardized. Why should the mission be jeopardized because several of the crew get spotted or apprehended?
They are the eyes, ears, and executors of Central Command. They do not know what their orders will be until they are given the command. In order to do this, they MUST have a Central Command.
Each group in the operation not only do not know the identity of the other groups, and must NOT be able to directly communicate with them. This is important because if security pulls them out, they cannot identify the other groups by using the confiscated communication devices.
I don't know ... why do so many people think that all of the players know the specific details of their mission and target? This runs counter to a well organized military operation. As talented and as well trained as they are - they are nothing more than worker bees who are in the field and may even be outside contractors. Central Command is safe and sound, no one can prove their identity, the missionaries may not even know who they are working for. Why would a government risk putting anyone in the field who can be interrogated and broken down to reveal who they work for? Hell, they may know how to kill people and know hotel locks, but nothing else. Could be low paid labor for all we know. Who cares about their identities except themselves?
Many have asked, "Why so many on the team?" To which there are many conceivable answers, for example: (1) They may have had other tasks in addition to eliminating M; (2) Perhaps they also took care of whomever it was M was coming to Dubai to see - a logical thing to do under the circumstances; (3) Maybe M did have bodyguards (as he reportedly usually did when he travelled) who were also taken out/sidelined requiring more than the number required to take just M out; (4) What M was up to in Dubai was so dangerous (perhaps buying and arranging for shipment of nuclear weapons, for example) that people were needed to implement a Plan B, Plan C and Plan D in the event Plan A proved unsuccessful.
Many have speculated as to why the "suspects" took no effort to avoid the seemingly omnipresent cameras. First of all, it would seem clear that the passports used were very, very skillfully prepared. For based on the passport "photographs" of the "suspects" disseminated globally by the Dubai authorities, not one of the 26 "suspects" has been reported as having been apprehended or even identified to date. Each passport photograph was obviously very skillfully doctored to be no one at all: close enough to their holder's face to convince Dubai customs officials to wave he/she through and yet sufficiently different from the holder's actual face to permit deniability. Therefore, no face captured by a camera is for sure a face depicted in a passport photograph.
On what bases and series of assumptions and guesses the Dubai authorities have attempted to link the doctored passport photos to the many faces caught on airport and hotel cameras is, of course, unknown. Also, why these photos and why these faces in the first place? As we all know, saying it's so is hardly proof it's so and yet that's all we're offered. Not one face caught on a camera is a face attached to a body committing a crime. And not one face caught on a camera is clearly connected to a passport photo. Bunch of rubbish. And now we read that the chief of Dubai police has left town for a religious pilgrimmage.
I can't wait for the next stage of the Dubai investigation to unfold. What a joke.
A couple pithy thoughts;
1. It is illegal in Dubai to kill a person who has not been indicted, tried, convicted and sentenced to death by judicial authorities. Of course it is an illegal act. It does bear giving notice to the fact that Mabhouh was likely given a "trial" in Israel, complete with public defenders, albeit in absencia.
2. More names have been revealed. More connections to Israeli olim (those who started as citizens in one country and later gained citizenship in Israel). More and more likely that Mossad did this.
3. Throwing out a little conspiracy... really not sure about this, but it bears discussion... who is arguably the Mossad's number one intelligence collaborator? The United States. It also just so happens that those in positions of power in the US have been completely silent upon the Dubai hit. I wonder whether the CIA was given advance notice... or even helped out with SIGINT. I'm not saying it happened. But it is certainly possible.
Unlike those Predator strikes, though, which hardly raise an eyebrow in the West these days, there was no "collateral damage" in the mysterious Dubai hit. No innocent civilians were hurt, no buildings were damaged.
Justice was done, and al-Mabhouh's preparations for the next war ended quietly.
All this is lost on those diplomats, "legal experts," and pundits who blame Israel for Dubai, and angrily denounce the passport infractions. In the absence of viable alternatives, and a refusal to share any of the risks, they are in no position to condemn actions aimed at preventing more terror.
I found it interesting that the surveillance personnel in the team were generally older and nicer dressed, and those four involved in the "wet work" were young, very muscular looking (like special forces trained) and dressed in denim and tee shirts.
I was fascinated by the footage where the four assassins exit the floor to the elevator. They appear to be purposefully exerting some considerable amount of self-control, after just having commited some horrendous act of violence against another person. Their degree of apparent self-control is what I find most chilling.
Maybe the whole affair was/is just a government-sanctioned distraction. Were it not for Abu Dhabi, after all, Dubai would have become the first country to go bankrupt. And what a shocker at that! Oil, camels and all that big deal rich Middle East Arab stuff.
"We don't want to talk about that", the out of control, big spending now out of money Abud Dhabi officials say, "let's talk instead about what must have been a "Mossad" operation in our fine country. Everybody hates them, after all. They'll like us more if we pin the tail on this donkey. Maybe they'll even give us some money.
Some customs operation, too. All those "fake, counterfeit" passports we're now being told about. But they all worked. Isn't that what customs officials do? Look for fake passports? If it isn't, what do they do?
Sorry, I meant out of money "Dubai" - not "Abu Dhabi" officials.
When the first two hitmen walk out towards the life does one have a glove on his left hand????
1. Changing hotels: All of the articles I’ve read say that this is a mark of professionalism but I don’t understand why. It’s seems to me that the main idea here is for each agent to perform his or her function without drawing the attention of the authorities. Presumably, all of the agents entered Dubai with some sort of cover (which, ideally, facilitated the agent’s assigned role). The changing of hotels seems problematic and, frankly, pointless. If the agents were not under suspicion there would be no need; if they were being looked at by Dubai’s security service changing hotels would not throw off even the most cursory surveillance but would be a red flag to the security service since this is not something that businesspeople, tourists, etc. would normally do. Moreover, the agents would certainly be asked why they’d changed hotels since the stamps in their passports would show their earlier time and date of arrival. Why tell pointless lies about when you arrived, why you have reservations at two hotels---if it comes up in the hotel's database, etc? It seems like everything these people did from the moment of their arrival was designed to call attention to themselves and to insure that any attention by the authorities, however slight, would probably be fatal to the plan and perhaps also to themselves. I don’t see the point. Can anyone explain this to me?
2. I also don’t really understand the need for such a large number of people or why they needed to be in constant communication with a controller in a foreign city, especially because their communications were so easily detectable. Obviously, the agents need to know where their target is staying or to pick up changes in plans. But then why not do the thing that all travelers do nowadays and pick up their email via their Gmail or Yahoo accounts? That would arouse no suspicion and would be absolutely reliable. It also seems obvious that the agents had some kind of inside source either in Hamas (their own or possibly the PLO’s) or inside Dubai security or both. That would tell you the hotel and maybe a few places and times---basically the way most organized crime assassinations are done---you don’t need the dog and pony show because somebody on the inside is feeding you info.
3. The “hit” itself seems pointlessly over-elaborate. For example, the agents clearly have an escape planned which does not involve staying in their cover identities and which probably gets them out of the country very directly (maybe by speedboat with a pickup somewhere). (I know that, in fact, it appears they actually did stay in their presumably rather tatted covers and risked flying to very distant cities even though one would think that time would be against them).
Again, why not do what the mobsters would do? Take the first good opportunity, shoot from a distance with a rifle or if you get close, like in the elevator, just hit the bellman over the head, kill the target and then run like hell. The odds would strongly favor such an approach. It's neat, actually much cleaner and does not require risking leaving 10-12 or more agents in the hands of an Arab security service if things go wrong?
On the other hand, given that they seem to have so much detail on his movements and habits, and are able to locate him in his hotel room alone, why screw around with stuff out of movie plots? Why not just kick in the door, empty two clips from a MAC-11 into him and, again, run like hell? You're in and out in two minutes---jump into the getaway car and get the hell out of the country. Could be done in maybe an hour if you don't leave by air (which logically they shouldn't---but apparently did).
4. Final general category of stuff that struck me as weird is the victim. Unless these news stories are leaving out some very important details, the victim’s behavior is even stranger than the supposed Israeli agents. He knows he’s a marked man but apparently travels openly and under his real name. He goes to a place where his enemies (Egypt, Israel and the PLO, at a minimum) are known to operate and where they will have considerable freedom of movement. He seems to have traveled alone, without a bodyguard. For its part, the security service seems to have taken no special precautions and given him no protection whatsoever----not even a semi-awake cop outside his hotel room to sound the alarm in the event that somebody, say, the Israelis, showed up looking to kick down the guy’s door and snatch him. They must’ve known that he was there on some kind of important mission but they just left him out there all alone without any cover at all.
Anybody else thinking along these lines?
If they were to use Gmail/Yahoo/etc., they would have to be near a computer in order to communicate. Also, they would have to think about all sorts of problems with network monitoring, surveillance in the Hotel's computer room, malware, cached pages, network traffic analysis, etc.
By communicating directly with a command-center, they would have instant, secure, verbal communication.
I think that they were betting on the hit not being detected. It was made to look like a natural death (the door being locked from the inside). Just putting at bullet in his head and then run would attract an awful lot of attention. Also, where would they run?
I think he was, in fact, traveling under false name. I do not have a reference at the moment, but I think I read it somewhere. Correct me, if I am wrong.
Regarding his protection, he usually travels with bodyguards, but they could not board the plane. (this could have been set up by the assassins)
I do think that it would be interesting to see surveillance videos on the victim's movements during the visit. Who did he meet? Where did he go?
"On the other hand, given that they seem to have so much detail on his movements and habits, and are able to locate him in his hotel room alone, why screw around with stuff out of movie plots? Why not just kick in the door, empty two clips from a MAC-11 into him and, again, run like hell? You're in and out in two minutes---jump into the getaway car and get the hell out of the country. Could be done in maybe an hour if you don't leave by air (which logically they shouldn't---but apparently did)."
At least the hit came out of a good movie plot. This method would come from a bad movie plot. This method would make the chances of them being caught raise substantially. This would never be done. If authorities are aware of a violent murder within minutes, the perpetrators are in alot of trouble, under alot of attention. Where are they going to travel, "by land?" To other Muslim countries within the UAE? To other Muslim countries in the peninsula? Sorry Mitch but your post verges on ridiculous.
I think the most interesting point now is that its been well over a month since the passport and camera photos of the "suspects" have been released to the world and yet not one of the "suspects" has even been identified to date, as in "Sure, that's John; he lives right down the street from me".
Are the "suspects" ghosts or, more likely, are the passport photos brilliant counterfeits (depicting no one) and the disguises out of Mission Impossible?
Some travel notes:
"8. How did Peter book an international flight over the phone without using credit?"
To "book" means "to make a reservation" (i.e. to write it in the reservation book), although it is often used sloppily to refer to buying a ticket. However it was meant in the captions in the video from Dubai, he might (1) already have had a ticket (perhaps an "open" or undated ticket) and just needed to book a specific flight on which it would be valid, (2) had an MCO he could use for the flight (MCO's are uncommon, but not rare, especially in an international transit hub like DXB, and while that would occasion more lengthy interaction with airline staff at the airport, not per se at all suspicious), (3) have made a booking (reservation) by phone, and paid for the ticket at the airport, or (4) used a prepaid debit card previously purchased for cash (FWIW, that's what most unbanked people in the USA use for travel and online purchases). IMHO this last seems most likely, as it minimizes potential delays and human interactions.
"Changing hotels: ... this is not something that businesspeople, tourists, etc. would normally do.... the agents would certainly be asked why they’d changed hotels since the stamps in their passports would show their earlier time and date of arrival. Why tell pointless lies about when you arrived, why you have reservations at two hotels---if it comes up in the hotel's database, etc?"
Normal people change hotels all the time, for myriad legitimate reasons. I've done it many times. There's no need to tell either hotel that you are "changing hotels", and even if they know you are going to, or coming from, a different hotel, they rarely ask why. I've never had anyone at hotel check-in say, "I see form your passport that you arrived yesterday, but you are checking in today. Where did you stay last night, and why did you move?", even though that is a typical situation for me. (As I said, there are many legitimate and common reasons, but the most common for me is that I booked someplace in advance, but only for 1 or 2 nights since it was sight unseen, and moved once I checked out other hotels, learned more about what location I preferred, etc.)
As for having reservations at multiple hotels, or duplicate reservations at the same hotel, that too is routine and no occasion for suspicion. Hotels make money on no-shows (typically they charge for 1 night, and they can rent the room to someone else), so they have little incentive to crack down on dupe reservations. The most common reasons for duplicate hotel reservations, whether at the same or different hotels, are (1) "my business associate/assistant/family member/travelling companion must have made that reservation for me, not realizing I had made my own arrangements", (2) "I talked to a travel agent about prices and availability, but I didn't think they had actually made a booking", (3) "I made several bookings (directly or with different travel agents) while I was shopping around for the best rate, and must have forgotten to cancel one of them," and (4) "I meant to change my reservations, but somehow a new reservation must have been made without the original one being cancelled". Hotels see all of these every day, and I've never seen them cause a hint of suspicion.
There's also a problem in staff training and organizational culture for hotels and other travel companies (and in other fields, although I'll stick to the travel industry since that's my area of expertise) that servility (which some clients like and even expect as part of the "bowing and scraping" factor in "luxury") may cause disempowerment that may make staff less likely to question suspicious activity or bring it to the attention of superiors, security departments, or the police. (It can also translate into reluctance to take initiative to solve problems, as with the thoroughly servile, thoroughly disempowered, thoroughly useless Emirates staff at every ticket office of theirs I've had the misfortune to have to deal with on 4 continents.)
Front-line guest-contract-worker staff at a Dubai hotel have it beaten into them that the customer is always right, no matter how bizarre or outrageous their demands. And it being a police state, those staff are themselves in justified terror of the police, their bosses, and the hotel security department, and want as little to do with any of them as possible. In such a "don't make waves" environment, they are more likely to try to fulfill strange-seeming requests than to report them to superiors or security. (And if you encourage front-line personnel to be suspicious, you risk encouraging attitudes that seem nosy and suspicious, and alienate the paying customers.)
A "spy spying on spy" moment: anyone notice the guy in the uniform/clipboard follow "Peter" all the way from the outside, up the escalator and then note his position within the business office?
Has anyone else considered the possibility that being caught on camera was intentional.
A high profile, highly public hit has a certain deterrent effect all its own. Add to this that despite all the finger pointing no one can actually prove anything, maybe things went exactly as planned.
As for the agents involved, a little plastic surgery, a new identity and a willingness to avoid international travel will more than cover their tracks.
So after all of this, they cannot pin it conclusively on the Israelis, they have not caught anyone, and the "burned" operators have no biometric data that was captured other than what can be easily changed, as other noted in the comments, by plastic surgery.
(Assuming that they knew the cameras were there, couldn't they have had a plastic or putty mask on the entire time? They take it off, and they are done.)
I'm unclear what has been done to follow up on this. What is going on now? Is anyone close to finding anything verifiable out about who it was? Does anyone care?
I suspect if the terrorists don't hide their faces while practicing their art, then why should we? My guess... they exposed themselves on TV so the enemy can see we can be nasty too.
I suspect that the cameras were ignored because arab security services are held in contempt, with the exception of Jordan's which does capture Mossad operatives. I can't believe that killing this one guy was worth burning so many operatives' identities.
I wonder what video tape footage has NOT been released? What video footage was edited or deleted?
It would be logical to conclude that there is footage of more detailed images, the question is what is available and will it be released?
The number of images, correlation of locations is very impressive.
I am wondering why none of the airports the teams flew to have published CCTV footage. I cannot believe that other airport's security would be unable to track specific arrivals.
It took them like 30 hours to realize that Mabhouh was dead, so by that time they already had landed safely in other countriess.
Plus the analizing all the footage also took some time.
I would assume that arriving airports keep their shots for more than 30 hours, and could have tracked the arrivals at a later date, as did the security people in Dubai. However, there was nothing in the news from any of the arriving destinations that the people had actually arrived. Obviously, the suspects could have been traced (via CCTV) from leaving the known arrival plane to their next destination, and the (presumably) different passport that was used could have been identified. If suspected murderers had arrived in my country, I would hope that my country's security services were able to retrace the movements of said suspects, and know what passport they used at arrival, or where to they continued their travels.
1. Landing wherever, they would not depart from there immediately, but would go to ground and depart later by some unsurveilled means.
2. All clues lead to blind alleys, dead ends, or wild goose chases.
3. Some minor "clue" will point in another direction.
4. "Mossad did it" will increase the myths of invincibility and omnipotence, and will be "denied" in such a way as to foster the conclusion.
5. All reactions and ramifications will eventually accrue to the benefit of one actor.
It's like a trademark ...
great reading. only half way down but had to stop to comment on Green. A rock of sense. There are interesting and off the wall posters here and some who are downright clueless but Green knows.
Some people wondered why hotel rooms were changed. They are a number of reasons, recon of other hotels and some attempt to break the line of surveillance, rather than hanging out in one hotel becoming noticable. Similar to why they switch cars in 'the movies'.
Others suggested a straight hit in the street would be simpler but you have no chance of getting any tortured info then.
Someone also why when the door was forced why an alarm didn't go off. Hotel locks are mere locks and not 'networked' and are dumb terminals to a degree. You can only find out what happened when you bring up a portable device that 'reads' the lock, go back down to a central point like reception and upload to the keycard management device and print from there.
This hit was to make a new and obvious statement to hamas and their ilk. Historically most countries have courted terrorists such as Arafat et al. They are allowed to travel freely such as to Dubai etc and no one seems to care. Is this civilized? Hell no. So why not make a statement that normal citizens can travel freely as well and remove the scum. The in your face manner clearly makes this statement and the terrorists now know that they are not safe or protected when they travel by syncophantic governments. This is a very positive and modern statement to the world by Israel. Why the world does not clearly get this message is very telling as to the average intelligence of the commentors.
Schneier.com is a personal website. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of BT.