Ben Zygier, the Australian-born Mossad agent previously known as Prisoner X, leaked sensitive information about Israel’s espionage operations against Iran, according to a new book.
In the book titled “Prisoner X,” the code name given to Zygier after he was taken and imprisoned by Shin Bet in early 2010, Australian journalist Rafael Epstein claims Zygier revealed intelligence about operations he had been involved in to an Iranian businessman he was with at Monash University in Melbourne in 2009.
“It was this Iranian who played a key role in his downfall,” Epstein wrote in an exclusive extract published in The Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne’s The Age newspapers Saturday.
“Put simply, Ben said too much to the wrong person at the wrong time,” according to Epstein, who claims that “sources in Australia and Israel say [Zygier] revealed details of his work to an Iranian businessman who was at Monash University’s Caulfield campus while Zygier was also studying.”
Epstein suggests that “sources in Australia and Israel claim the Iranian knew that what he was hearing was valuable, and relayed the information to Iran. Tehran’s security services started talking about the Mossad agent, and the details revealed by Zygier then became part of the electronic traffic between Iran and a European capital city. This electronic communication traffic was then picked up by the massive surveillance network operated by Israel.”
“Zygier was also the subject of a significant ASIO operation at the time, with concern over his use of his Australian passports for Mossad operations overseas,” Epstein writes, adding that “details of Zygier’s work, and of another Australian Mossad agent he was working with in Italy, were leaked by Australian intelligence sources to then Fairfax journalist Jason Koutsoukis. One of Koutsoukis’ sources claimed to have been following Zygier on the streets of Melbourne.
Epstein’s thesis contradicts previous media reports, which claimed that in 2008 Zygier flew independently to Eastern Europe in a bid to turn a Hezbollah associate into a double agent. But his apparent attempt to prove his worth to his Mossad superiors reportedly backfired and he allegedly exposed two Lebanese nationals working for the Mossad.
“It comes as no surprise then that when Ben babbled in Melbourne, the Mossad heard about it in Tel Aviv via Tehran,” according to Epstein.
JTA content was used in this report.