Michael Ross was born in Canada and served as a soldier in a combat unit of the Israel Defence Forces prior to being recruited as a “combatant,” (a term designating a deep-cover operative tasked with working in hostile milieus) in Israel’s legendary secret intelligence service, the Mossad. In his 13 year career with the Mossad, Ross was also a case officer in Africa and South East Asia for three years, and was the Mossad’s counterterrorism liaison officer to the CIA and FBI for two-and-a-half years. Ross is a published writer and commentator on Near Eastern affairs, intelligence and terrorism. He is the author of The Volunteer: The Incredible True Story of an Israeli Spy on the Trail of International Terrorists.
For several months my personal and professional reputation has been under attack by what I can only assume are politically motivated voices in the blogosphere and social media. For a public figure this is part of the game. However, one writer in particular, has acted with such irresponsible maliciousness that I have been forced to respond through both legal and public arenas.
Richard Silverstein wrote not one, but two, very malicious and extremely defamatory blog posts about me based on a “source” whose well-documented run-in with the internet “Hacktivist” known as “The Jester” speaks for itself.
This is the part where I announce that I have retained the services of Vorys, Sater, Seymour, Pease LLP, leaders in the field of internet defamation. All documents and statements contained in this piece can be verified through their offices.
Armed with this background and disclaimer, let us move forward.
Richard Silverstein makes all kinds of heavy weather about exposing my true name “Burrows”. It is indeed a true name, and nothing short of criminal to reveal it to be sure, but unbeknownst to Richard Silverstein one that I have only been using since 2002. Until that point, I had been living under two separate identities; one Israeli and one Canadian. The notarized copies of according alias passport and supporting documentation are lodged with my lawyers and I will be making copies available to a number of select national security journalists.
In a letter sent to my lawyers from my friend and colleague, Ishmael Jones – a long serving and distinguished non-official cover veteran of the CIA’s National Clandestine service – had this to say:
The most troubling act by Mr. Silverstein is that he reveals Mr. Ross’s true name. This places Mr. Ross and his family at physical risk. Because it involves a former member of an allied intelligence service, slander and libel laws may be the only options for responding to Mr. Silverstein. If Mr. Silverstein had done this to an American intelligence officer, however, he would be subject to criminal prosecution.
I don’t care about being “exposed”. I do however, find it nothing short of criminal to do so in full knowledge that I have a wife and children.
Dear public, how is that even remotely excusable? This isn’t exercising a First Amendment right, it’s reckless endangerment.
Through my service with the CIA and through contact with friends and colleagues within the CIA, I have confirmed the truth of Michael Ross’s biography as described in his book. Mr. Silverstein’s blog posts are slanderous and unfounded.
Now for some other refutations of his blog posts:
I posted a photo of Steve Nash’s high school jersey’s at St. Michael’s University School and (apparently not content with questioning my professional background alone) Richard Silverstein asserts that I claim to have attended the school. I have existing close family ties to the school and my uncle is an alumnus. I took the photo as Steve Nash made a surprise visit, as he does on occasion, to the school that day. I attended a perfectly good public school with its own notable alumni including Steve Nash, who attended my school and switched to St. Michaels later on.
Richard Silverstein also claims that I wasn’t in the Canadian military and states he couldn’t locate me through the Department of National Defence (as if they hand out personnel files to anyone who asks). As I pointed out, my Canadian identity prior to 2002 was not “Burrows”. After basic training at CFB Cornwallis, NS, I was selected to serve in a combat arms regiment at CFB Petawawa in the Canadian Special Service Brigade from 1979 to 1983. A small contingent of my regiment also served in an exchange program with a similar U.S. unit based in Fort Hood, Texas. Parenthetically, an acquaintance who resides in my neighborhood is a retired Major-General in the Canadian military who in his past, commanded a sister regiment; we have a number of former colleagues in common.
As for my Mossad career. I was recruited in 1988 and served in three operational divisions until December 2001, when I retired with the equivalent military rank of Lieutenant-Colonel and in the position of Branch Head. Hardly a low-level under-achiever, I left the Mossad because I was tired of the work, the region as a whole, and wanted to return to my home in Canada. I put in the hard time and nobody is more aware of this than my family, who were the ones who endured the real hardship of being part and parcel of my Mossad career. It’s worth noting that one of my sons recently served in a special operations force unit of the type that, were Richard Silverstein’s accusations true, would have precluded him from eligibility in such a unit.
I was recruited because I had an established anglo-saxon background with no previous ties to Israel or Judaism. I made it through the Mossad’s lengthy vetting and stringent selection process for an operational deep-cover role. I was a decent athlete and could think on my feet. I could travel unhindered by Israeli characteristics. I was not an analyst. I had no background in military intelligence nor in academia so I served 11.5 years in the field and 2.5 in HQ. I retired with a pension that is still paid out monthly. I have notarized translations of documents attesting to these facts. I even retained the invitation to my retirement ceremony held in the presence of the Mossad Director-General in December 2001.
Were I to fabricate a book about my experiences, it would cover a much shorter period of my life and be a hell of a lot more exciting than it actually was. I never claimed I was an uber-spy. My career was more Le Carre than Ludlum.
Another highly erroneous statement in Richard Silverstein’s blog posts is his assertion that in a liaison role, I would have had no contact with the FBI. The FBI opened their Tel Aviv Legal Attache (LEGATT) in 1996 during an inaugural visit by then Director Louis Freeh. I came on board the Liaison and Special Political Operations Division’s North America Department two weeks later. The Mossad is responsible for all liaison relationships with representatives of all foreign intelligence services without exception. There are a number of former FBI agents on Twitter who can attest to this fact. Of course, Richard Silverstein would never think to ask.
As it happens, the real predator and poseur in this whole tawdry little drama is Richard Silverstein. He preys on people to whom he is ideologically opposed while posing as a “journalist”. My understanding is that one of the basic tenets of journalism is to conduct research and interview the subject of your article to obtain all the facts. I received no communication from Silverstein requesting clarification or my side of the story. He did write my publisher however, who shared the contents of his email with me and promptly referred it to Random House’s legal department due to its threatening tone. It’s not surprising that Richard Silverstein’s accuracy and the quality of his reporting has been called into question.
Richard Silverstein then goes on to compare me to Anthony Weiner. That is as highly defamatory as it is obscene. I am and have been married for nearly ten years to a beautiful, accomplished, and wonderful woman. I dedicated my book to her and she appears at the end of my acknowledgements. We are best friends and soul-mates. We recently spent time together in SE Asia where I was able to show her some of my former haunts. My wife followed me on Twitter and knew exactly from whence this salacious cancer originated. So do many others. Surprise.
Despite two letters to cease and desist unlawful conduct from my lawyers, Richard Silverstein will not remove his defamatory and libelous blog posts. So be it. My lawyers have prepared the formal complaint and I am prepared to sue Richard Silverstein in a Seattle court at the time of my choosing. In the interim, I will spare no effort in defending my good name and record of service.
I formally challenge Richard Silverstein to come out from behind the safety of his keyboard and debate me in any public forum; radio, TV, or the internet, I’m good to go.
In closing, I offer this advice to Richard Silverstein: Spend less time trolling the internet and engaging in toxic, spiteful, and malicious character assassination. Try reading former Navy SEAL Rob DuBois’ excellent book, “Powerful Peace: A Navy SEAL’s Lessons on Peace from a Lifetime at War” and think about what it is to be a mensch instead of a cyber-bully.
Karma, Richard Silverstein, karma.