Key clams up on Israel spy claims

Key clams up on Israel spy claims
July 20th, 2011  

Topic: Key clams up on Israel spy claims

Key clams up on Israel spy claims
Police say they are confident their computer system is secure, as Prime Minister John Key declines to answer questions over Israeli spy claims.

The police national computer has been under scrutiny in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake in February because of fears Israeli agents loaded software into the system that would allow backdoor access to highly sensitive intelligence files.

The Security Intelligence Service ordered the checks as part of an urgent investigation of what one SIS officer described as the suspicious activities of several groups of Israelis during and immediately after the earthquake.

Three Israelis were among the 181 people who died when the earthquake destroyed most of Christchurch's central business district on February 22. One was found to be carrying at least five passports.

An unaccredited Israeli search and rescue squad was later confronted by armed New Zealand officers and removed from the sealed-off "red zone" of the central city.

Police this morning said their systems and the information contained on them were secure, and were subject to regular security audits and intrusion checks.

"We also have a number of anti intrusion measures designed to stop unauthorised or malicious programs from entering or being active on our systems," Acting Chief Information Officer Murray Mitchell said.

"These systems are regularly being updated and reviewed, and we are confident that our data and network were not compromised during the Christchurch Earthquake response or subsequently.''

Key was asked repeatedly today to confirm details of an SIS investigation into whether the Israeli secret service had infiltrated the police national computer after three Israelis were killed and other Israeli citizens fled the country.

He said he was satisfied there had been no misuse of the police computer. But when asked repeatedly if there had been an investigation by the SIS he refused to answer because it was not in the national interest.

Key also insisted there had been no misuse of New Zealand passports but when asked to confirm one Israeli had five passports he would only say he was aware they had several in their possession but refused to elaborate.

The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Key four times on the day of the earthquake but Key would only discuss part of those phone calls, which he said were to offer help and advice.

He would not discuss other aspects of the calls.

But when asked repeatedly if the Israeli government had done anything wrong he would not answer, saying it was not in the national interest for him to do so.

Key was also asked about an Israeli search and rescue team being escorted from the Red Zone by armed guards after being found there without permission.

He confirmed he was aware of an incident but "can't confirm all of the details in the way you've presented them".

When asked to give a correct portrayal of the incident he refused. And when asked why it was not in the national interest to talk about the matters raised in a Fairfax story today Key said it was because he "deemed" that to be the case.

When asked if he was expecting the public to trust him that the national interest had not been compromised Key said:

"If I believed that it was in the national interest for me to disclose the full details that I have then I would do so but I don't believe it is."

Key then said: "I hasten to add you are making allegations that are not necessarily correct or proven."

But when asked if he could provide the correct or proven details he refused.

Labour leader Phil Goff is calling on the Government to "come clean" about what it knows about suspicious activities of Israelis following the Christchurch earthquake.

That included why one of the Israelis was found to have five passports, he said. "This is not something that should be withheld from New Zealanders, we deserve to know."


The response of the Israeli government to the three deaths appears extraordinary. In the hours after the 6.3 quake struck:

Prime Minister John Key fielded the first of four calls that day from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israel's Ambassador in the South Pacific, Shemi Tzur, who is based in Australia, booked flights to Christchurch, where he visited the morgue.
Israel's civil defence chief left Israel for Christchurch.
A complete Israeli urban search and rescue squad was assembled and flown to Christchurch, arriving about the same time as ...
Three people who had smashed their way out of a van crushed by a concrete pillar in the central city, leaving a fourth person dead in the vehicle, arrived back in Israel.
Those four Israelis Ofer Benyamin Mizrahi, 23, from Kibbutz Magal near Haifa, Michal Fraidman, Liron Sade and Guy Jordan would later become a prime focus of the SIS investigation, along with the Israeli search and rescue squad and a group of forensic analysts from Israel that worked in the Christchurch morgue helping to identify earthquake victims.

The four, two men and two women, had been shopping in the central city on the morning of the earthquake and had returned to their van, parked in Gloucester St, when the quake hit. Mizrahi, the driver, was killed instantly, and Jordan, in the front passenger seat, smashed a window and climbed through the hole to escape. The two women, Fraidman and Sade, who were sitting in the back seat, also managed to crawl out.

They were unable to reach Mizrahi and, after taking photographs of the crushed van, made their way to Latimer Square, where Israeli officials had set up an emergency meeting point. Within 12 hours they had left New Zealand.

On Sunday, February 26, Mizrahi's body was recovered from the van and taken to the morgue where, during routine identity checks, he was found to be carrying at least five passports.

Meanwhile, the search and rescue squad dispatched from Israel had arrived in Christchurch but the offer of help was rejected by New Zealand authorities because the squad did not have accreditation from the United Nations.

According to Israeli newspaper reports, the squad was being funded by the parents of two other Israelis killed in the earthquake, Ofer Levy and Gabi Ingel, both 22, who were said to be in New Zealand on a backpacking holiday. The parents made repeated public appeals for the Israeli team to join the rescue, appeals that were dismissed by the New Zealand authorities until squad members were discovered in the sealed off "red zone" of the central city.

It is understood the squad members were confronted by armed New Zealand officers and removed from the area. That confrontation is understood to have led to intense diplomatic exchanges between New Zealand and Israel, though police have refused to comment on the incident or even acknowledge that it occurred, and the Israeli ambassador says he had not been advised of any such incident.

Another Israeli group, a forensic analysis team sent by the Israeli government, was welcomed in Christchurch and worked on victim identification in the morgue.

However, the SIS also began to have suspicions about this group when it began investigating possible links between the cache of passports found with Mizrahi, the immediate flight of his three companions, the high-powered Israeli interest shown in the earthquake, the unexplained behaviour of the supposed "search and rescue squad" and a mysterious seventh Israeli, in New Zealand illegally, who was first reported missing in the quake and then, weeks later, was reported to have left the country. They were also interested in the Facebook tribute page set up for Mizrahi that has attracted only five "likes" in the more than four months it has been on the social media site.

When it was realised the forensic analysts could have accessed the national police computer database, an urgent security audit was ordered.

As the SIS officer explained, it would take only moments for a USB drive to be inserted in a police computer terminal and loaded with a program allowing remote backdoor access.

"We were concerned that could have happened," the officer said.

"We carried out an urgent audit. If it had been done it would eventually have given the Israelis access to all of our intelligence."

The national database holds all records of convictions, firearms licences, lost and stolen property, criminal behaviour and identifying marks and observations taken by police. It is capable of sophisticated searching and data matching. The officer said the audit had not identified any suspicious files so far, but a wider SIS investigation was continuing.

"It all looks suspicious, but a lot of what the Israelis do raises suspicion. So lots of smoke but we haven't found any fires. The file remains open though."

...more to follow.
July 20th, 2011  
Part 2:

Intelligence agencies have become hypersensitive to sophisticated hacking after the malware "agent.btz" was infiltrated into the computer systems of United States Military Command three years ago.

The US believes Russian agents were responsible and Deputy Defence Secretary William Lynn has described it as "a digital beachhead" for a foreign intelligence agency to attempt to steal data. Attempts to remove the malware have so far been unsuccessful new, more potent variations of agent.btz are still appearing.

The SIS officer said the agency was also aware of a comment posted on the website of the Russian newspaper Pravda that the Christchurch earthquake had disrupted an Israeli spy base in the city.

The Southland Times asked police national headquarters for comment on the actions and activities of various Israeli groups after the earthquake. After considering the request for nine days, the police issued a brief statement, attributed to Assistant Commissioner Malcolm Burgess, confirming that three Israelis had died in the earthquake, that the van in which Mizrahi died had been recovered and examined, that police had not been involved in the decision to exclude the Israeli search squad, and that "police do not discuss or disclose details of personal effects found with any of the 181 victims".

Mr Tzur, also approached for comment, said it was "science fiction" that any Mossad agents had been involved.
July 20th, 2011  
Israeli identity theft likely - expert
By Audrey Young, Newstalk ZB and NZPA
UPDATED11:10 AM Wednesday Jul 20, 2011

Claims of "suspicious" activities by several groups of Israelis following the February 22 Christchurch earthquake left the Israeli ambassador "angry and upset", according to the newspaper editor who broke the story this morning.

Southland Times Editor Fred Tulett is unshakable in his conviction that the facts are accurate.

The story claims the activities of a number of Israelis following Christchurch's February earthquake raised the suspicions of the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) and sparked an investigation into the possibility the police national computer may have been hacked.

An Israeli search and rescue team had reportedly been found in the red zone after the February 22 quake and ordered out by armed police.

Prime Minister John Key today confirmed one Israeli was found with several passports in his possession.

The Southland Times alleges Ofer Mizrahi, who died in the quake when the van he was in was crushed by debris, was carrying the passports.

The story says the passports were found during a routine body search on February 26.

Three other Israeli occupants of the van survived the quake, and quickly fled the country within 12 hours of the quake.

Mr Tulett told Newstalk ZB the initial information given to him was checked with other sources, including an intelligence agency source.

Mr Tulett also put the allegations to Israeli Ambassador Shemi Tzur.

"He said he was angry and upset at the suggestions that these were Israeli spies or that any of them were Israeli spies, and that's not surprising of course," Mr Tulett said.

He says there were too many unusual things going on.

Meanwhile security expert Paul Buchanan believes the police and SIS have reason to be concerned about reports of possible Israeli spies in Christchurch during the February earthquake.

"One has to wonder what was going on," Mr Buchanan said.

"To have known the fact that the survivors left the country immediately and there were high powered Israeli overtures to the New Zealand Government to bring in a search and rescue team, and as it turns out an unauthorised search and rescue team was sent here and actually detained by the police when they were in the red zone."

Mr Buchanan says given the young age of the suspects - in their early 20s - it's highly likely they were involved in identity theft.

Key refuses to answer most spy claim questions

Earlier today Mr Key refused to answer most questions about the story.

Currently on tour in the US, he said it was "not in the national interest" to give details of any SIS inquiry.

He told reporters an Israeli had been caught with several passports after the February 22 quake, but there were no New Zealand passports among them.

"I can't confirm the number of passports - because I don't know," Mr Key said.

"I can confirm that I have no knowledge of misuse of a New Zealand passport.

"We don't have any evidence to support there has been misuse of New Zealand passports."

He said it was not against the law to hold more than one passport.

Asked if he had any reason to believe that Mossad agents had been active in Christchurch at the time Mr Key said, "I'm just not in a position to comment on those matters and I'm not going to.

"I don't think it is in the national interest to do so.

"If I thought it was in the national interest to discuss those matters I would. The previous Government where these was misuse of New Zealand passports, it was deemed to be in the national interest. I'm just not in the position to do that."

Asked if Israeli had done anything wrong, he was not in a position to discuss it.

He had not met with the Israeli ambassador over the issue.

Asked if the Fairfax Media story was wrong, he said he was not going into detail on those issues.

Asked if he had been aware of an Israeli search and resuce team having been found in the red zone and being ordered out by armed police Mr Key said, "I'm aware of some of those details I can't confirm all of the details you presented are correct."

He wouldn't confirm if there was an SIS inquiry into any alleged Israeli activity following the quake.

Mr Key did say Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to call him four times on the day of the February 22 quake, but did not get through each time.

Three Israelis were amongst the 181 people killed in the 6.3 magnitude earthquake on February 22.

Unnamed SIS agent newspaper's secret source

The Southland Times claimed an unnamed SIS officer told the newspaper there were fears a group of Israelis had accessed the police national computer database, which holds records of convictions and other information collected by police.

The officer said the investigation failed to find any suspicious files indicating the computer system had been hacked in to but the file remained open.

Israeli Ambassador Shemi Tzur dismissed suspicions that a group from Israel's secret service, Mossad, were caught up in the quake as "science fiction".

"These were youngsters holidaying in your beautiful country ... we encourage our young people to visit New Zealand," Mr Tzur said.

The SIS investigation focused on a group of four people who were in a van in the central business district (CBD) when the quake hit.

Ofer Benyamin Mizrahi, 23, the driver of the van, was killed instantly in the quake while the other three escaped the van's wreckage and left the country within 12 hours.

The SIS became suspicious after "at least" five passports were found on Mr Mizrahi. Other behaviour that raised concerns included the immediate flight of his three companions, the high level Israeli Government interest in the quake and the unexplained behaviour of a private search and rescue squad funded by the families of Israelis killed in the quake.

The search and rescue group was not allowed to join other rescuers because it was not United Nations accredited and reportedly had to be escorted from the red zone by armed police.
Key clams up on Israel spy claims
July 20th, 2011  
Last but not least:

Dubai murder-accused had Kiwi link
JARED MORGAN Last updated 05:00 20/07/2011

Former Israeli diplomat to New Zealand Zev William Barkan leads a life akin to that of novelist Frederick Forsyth's Jackal – emerging from the shadows only to be named by authorities in connection with various crimes before again disappearing.

Barkan is still wanted in New Zealand as the alleged ringleader of an illegal passport scam in 2004; last year he was named as a suspect in the slaying of a Hamas operative in Dubai.

Barkan is one of 32 people Dubai police suspect as having a role in the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a hotel room in the emirate in January 2010.

Four fake Australian passports were used by the team responsible for the killing.

That development came six years after Barkan fled New Zealand for Israel in the wake of a passport scam that caused a rift in New Zealand relations with the Jewish State. Two of his countrymen were arrested for stealing the identity of an Aucklander with cerebral palsy to fraudulently obtain a passport.

New Zealand imposed diplomatic sanctions against Israel and suspended high-level contacts between the two countries following the July 2004 passport fraud convictions of Israelis Uriel Zosha Kelman and Eli Cara. Speculation was that the men were Mossad agents.

New Zealand police allege Barkan was the one who actually tried to get the passport.

Tony Resnick, a former paramedic with St John Ambulance, was also believed to have been involved. He spent some time working in Israel and was a "person of interest" to police. He resigned from his job and left the country without warning in March 2004.

Barkan is also believed to have left New Zealand before Kelman and Cara were caught.

In reaction, then prime minister Helen Clark cancelled a planned visit to New Zealand in August by then Israeli president Moshe Katzav, delayed approval for a new Israeli ambassador to New Zealand, and said the case had "seriously strained our relationship".

A year later, Israeli foreign minister Silvan Shalom expressed sorrow, and said Israel would work to repair it. Dr Alon Liel, former director-general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said Israel had to protest the sanctions, "for if not, it's a silent admission that the two men worked for the Mossad".

Meanwhile, Kelman and Cara, who denied membership of Mossad but pleaded guilty to trying to enter the country illegally and working with organised criminal gangs, were sentenced to six months' jail.

Cara, who visited New Zealand 24 times between October 2000 and March 2004, claims he was working as a travel agent.

They were also ordered to pay reparation to a cerebral palsy charity because they tried to collect a passport in the name of a man with the condition. After serving three months they were deported.

Soon after the scandal broke in New Zealand, The Sydney Morning Herald reported Barkan, allegedly using a fraudulent Canadian passport, was possibly in North Korea.

The newspaper's source was quoted as a "New Zealand aid worker with intelligence connections in Asia".

The political strife and speculation deepened in early 2005 when it emerged Australia had secretly expelled a Canberra-based diplomat – described as a "consul" in Israel.

Several weeks later, in February, the expulsion was revealed in an Israeli newspaper, Ma'ariv.

The newspaper speculated there might have been some connection with the New Zealand passport case.

One of the official duties of the Canberra diplomat was to visit the two Israelis in prison in New Zealand, to provide them with diplomatic services, the paper said. The pair had also spent considerable time in Australia, where there was speculation that they might have been on a similar mission.

In between times, Barkan did not go to ground. He was named by Cambodian media a year after disappearing from New Zealand as, along with accomplices, running a studio making snuff and porn movies in the Mekong River town of Pen Yauin in Cambodia.

In a professional studio, girls from New Zealand and Australia – students and tourists – were lured into thinking they were to become movie stars.

At first they made porn films in studios in Phnom Phen behind a local bar before branching out into films of hangings and executions of city vagrants, followed by suicide films.

Almost six years later, the scandal would rear its head again when in December cables released by WikiLeaks said United States diplomats disparaged New Zealand's reaction to the suspected spy ring as a "flap" and accused New Zealand's government of grandstanding in order to sell more lamb to Arab countries.

US officials in Wellington told their colleagues in Washington that New Zealand had "little to lose" from the breakdown in diplomatic relations with Israel and was instead merely trying to bolster its exports to Arab states.

Claims the men were Mossad agents were not pursued in court, the US cable noted.

The cables revealed the US believed allegations the men were spies: "While Prime Minister Helen Clark would not confirm which service employed the men, she noted that if one were to lay espionage charges then one would have to be prepared to offer the kind of evidence in court which our intelligence agencies do not like coming forward to display.

"We [the US] have very strong grounds for believing these are Israeli intelligence agents," the cable said.

In the wake of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh's killing Australia expelled an official from the Israeli embassy.

The move was prompted by an investigation into how the Australian passports were used by the team that carried out the killing of the Hamas operative and confirmation the documents were forgeries.
July 20th, 2011  
Now a comment, Israel is a country we are supposed to be friendly with and tolerant of how exactly are we supposed to maintain either of these stances when they are continually pulling this crap (this will be the 3rd time in less than 10 years they have been caught stealing identities here alone)?

Is it any wonder the Palestinian cause is becoming easier and easier to support, when I joined this board 7 years ago saying anything negative about Israel bought howls of protest now it is met with shrugs and silence.
July 20th, 2011  
A Can of Man
I think most of us know the answer to that.
And the Holocaust was a long time ago. And more importantly, doesn't have anything to do with this stuff.
July 20th, 2011  
Some people are slowly realising the import of Israel's ongoing treachery towards it's "friends", others just stick their heads further in the sand.

The old saying, "With friends like these, who needs enemies", has never been so true.
July 20th, 2011  
Hehe well our PM still has a long way to go as apparently it is not uncommon for people to travel with multiple passports and to be fair he is right as I travel with two myself however I must be doing something wrong as both mine are issued under the same name.

But if you want to see how a politician ducks and dodges here is one of the slipperiest in action...

I love the standard "I am not aware" comments as this is his standard line when questioned about anything he told us the same thing earlier this year when when it was discovered they had purchased 30 new BMWs so they showed him a clip of him getting out of one to which he responded he was "unaware" of that as well. Seems he is the most unaware politician we have.
July 20th, 2011  
Can't blame Israel for spying - even on its "friends," or using ID's / passports of its allies for their operations. They're surrounded by nations and organisations that want to destroy Israel. Be assured the USA spies on its friends and many of its friends spy on their friends. It is a universal practice necessitated by the desire to survive or be protected. If in its operations and spying Israel discovered a threat to New Zealand, Australia or the USA, she would tell us - and I suspect has already provided good intelligence to her friends.
Every nation spys / collects INTEL one way or another in varying degrees - GET OVER IT
July 20th, 2011  
So if New Zealanders or Australians start getting arrested or kidnapped through out the world because our passports are no longer worth the paper they are printed on due to pariah states using them to carry out dodgy acts around the world you are good with that?

What if we were to replace Israel in this with Iran is it still perfectly understandable and acceptable?

How many Aussies would you be prepared to sacrifice for the sake of a "friendship"?

I am thinking it could be fun to give every crim we can find an Aussie passport and send them out into the world it would save us millions in prison costs and if anything goes wrong you can deal with its a win win for us.

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