SPIES: TREACHERY, SECRECY, PARANOIA
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“On the morning of September 25th, 1997, Khaled Meshaal, the head of the political bureau of the Palestinian resistance group Hamas, was walking to his office in Amman. Unbeknownst to Meshaal, two Mossad agents were waiting for him, disguised as tourists. One was holding a can of soda; the other was concealing a syringe filled with a poison that would kill the Palestinian without leaving a detectable cause of death. As Meshaal arrived, the assassins walked by and sprayed the poison on his neck, but Meshaal thought nothing of it. Although he did feel something cold and wet on his skin, he also saw one of the men opening the can of soda right at that moment, and his brain did exactly what it was expected to do: it filled the logical gap of the unexplained wet sensation with the elucidating fizzy drink.
The order for the murder had come from Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister. It was supposed to be a quiet assassination, a clandestine hit that would make Meshaal appear to have died of natural causes. Mossad had for months used water instead of poison to test the plot on unsuspecting people in the streets of Tel Aviv, and Netanyahu was satisfied with the rehearsals. But on that occasion, while Meshaal reacted like he was supposed to do, his bodyguard didn’t. Muhammad Abu Saif grew suspicious as the two agents sprinted away, and followed them in his car as they headed for refuge in the Israeli embassy. Abu Saif knew how to navigate the streets of Amman and soon caught up with them. He tackled the men, and a passerby helped him take the Israelis to prison. Meanwhile, on the other side of town, Meshaal fell ill, was taken to the hospital and soon fell into a coma.
For Israel, the failed plot was about to turn into a diplomatic disaster. With the spies in prison, the world would soon learn of the assassination attempt, and King Hussein of Jordan would feel betrayed by allies conducting a clandestine operation in a country with which they had a peace agreement. Worse yet, the operation targeted a man Hussein had vowed to protect. Even if the king had been secretly informed of the plot, as some have since suspected, he now had to save face and make Israel pay for the crime.”
–from the book’s introductory chapter
Find out everything you always wanted to know about the world’s second oldest profession, espionage. Award-winning journalist and writer Paula Schmitt tells all about:
- The history of espionage from ancient times to the age of drones
- The fear and paranoia-filled lives of spies and double agents
- The recruitment and personality tests they are subjected to
- Some of the most famous and some of the least known intrigues, sabotages, and proxy conflicts
- The psychological profile of a typical agent
- The surveillance going on today, in our daily lives, who conducts it, and on whose behalf
Rife with true stories, reportage, analysis, factoids and a gripping narrative, this short book provides a thorough tour of a fascinating, and sinister, practice.