Michael Ross: Richard Silverstein Confuses Concept of “Tikkun Olam” with Reckless Endangerment, Cyber-Bullying, Defamation, and Mendacity.

michaelross sm 150x150 Michael Ross: Richard Silverstein Confuses Concept of Tikkun Olam with Reckless Endangerment, Cyber Bullying, Defamation, and Mendacity.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.

Jones continues:

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.

Life in the Cold – Discussing the Psychology of Spying with Former Mossad Officer Michael Ross

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. You can follow him on Twitter at @mrossletters. John Little tweets at @blogsofwar.

John Little: John le Carre’s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is a damning and deeply cynical take on the intelligence profession and government’s use of intelligence and intelligence operatives. It is an uncomfortable and exaggerated (but not entirely untrue) look at the difficult human dimension of this business that will always be relevant even as technological sources of intelligence continue to advance. In a world where relationships are often built on an inherent dishonesty, empathy for the source is secondary to achieving one’s goal (or non-existent) and success may also mean that lives are damaged or lost in the process how does an intelligence officer succeed and walk away relatively undamaged? Is that even possible?

Michael Ross: I think the great achievement of “The Spy Who Came infrom the Cold” is that it lifted the Bondian veil and revealed that spies aren’t all suave Aston-Martin driving sex addicts who gamble at high end casinos but what Le Carre’s anti-hero Alec Leamas describes as “a bunch of seedy squalid bastards like me.” While I think he is being a bit harsh in his assessment, I believe the underlying point he is making in this part of the book (and brilliant subsequent film with Richard Burton) is that people searching for some deeper, altruistic motive behind the actions of their intelligence services will be readily disabused of these notions when confronted with the reality of the profession. Le Carre posited that intelligence services are the sub-conscious of the nation they serve and when examined as such, you see that he has also revealed another hard truth about this milieu. I would only add to Le Carre’s observation by saying that intelligence services are also the disassociative aspect of a nation’s sub-conscious. Policy makers have a tendency to only ask questions about methods when things go awry.

A spy’s job is to meet the expectations set by his nation’s national security agenda (and in specific instances I include economic security under this umbrella) and part of this includes targeting people for sources of human intelligence who will assist you in meeting these expectations. From the dock-worker in Tartous to the network administrator for a European telecom provider, they all have to be spotted, assessed, developed, recruited, and handled by a spy in person. This involves forming a bond and workable relationship, but for obvious reasons, these relationships can only go so far. There can also be a great deal of warmth and empathy in these relationships that is often misinterpreted by the source (I heard of more than once case where a female source fell in love with her case officer), but it can never be reciprocated to the degree that it interferes with the primary objective of the relationship. A HUMINT case officer who lacks empathy and is unable to make some kind of bond with his source will never achieve the full potential of the relationship.

Things do go wrong from time to time and sources get caught and in our area of operation, this often means torture and death. I never saw a case officer remain unscathed by such an experience and I think one of the great fears of practioners is to lose a source. Some case officers are less moved by relationships with thier sources than others but in the end, it’s a question of balance; be the person that your source wants to spill his secrets to but don’t take it so far in the direction of cameraderie that your source is also your best friend. People know when sincerity isn’t genuine. Recruiting human sources of intelligence is as much an emotional and psychological construct as it is an intellligence gathering one.

John Little: The psychological dynamics of these relationships really run the whole spectrum so it’s difficult to generalize. However, agents seem to be burdened with most of the psychological stress. Once that line has been crossed and they’ve betrayed their country the case officer is both a lifeline and in some ways a potential (if not outright) threat. It seems like a really unstable dynamic. How were you prepared for this? Can role play and classroom time really prepare a potential case officer for the challenge or does it have to be mastered in the field?

Michael Ross: Let there be no mistake; it’s the source that bears almost all the risk. How often do you hear in the news that a Mossad, CIA, or MI6 case officer has been captured and/or executed? By the same token, being a case officer has its stresses and dangers (one of my Mossad colleagues was shot by a turned source during a meeting in Brussels and we all know what happened at the CIA base near Khost), but by comparison, it’s negligible compared to what the source must endure waiting for the local security goons to get wise. The worst thing a case officer can do is be the cause of his source’s capture. It’s why we do surveillance detection routes, have good cover, and make damn sure we’re not being the reason the source was discovered. The recent episode with Ryan Fogle in Moscow is a good example of what happens when you don’t take the HUMINT recruitment process seriously. You can laugh at Fogle and his wig but you have to wonder who trained him and even more importantly, thought he was a case officer worthy of deployment in Russia.

There is no replacement for experience but training is a very big part of success in the field. There is a lot of time devoted to role-playing during training. I can’t speak for other services but our role-playing consists primarily of real-life scenarios based on what happens when things go sideways. You have sources who balk, demand more money, threaten to go to their own authorities etc. I recall one Mossad case officer sitting calmly with his Arab source in a hotel in Zurich and the source engaging in histrionics and complaining bitterly about his lot in life. The Mossad case officer just smiled and reassuringly told the source in Arabic, “I kiss the words that come out of your mouth”. Sometimes all a source wants is reassurance and a chance to vent. A good HUMINT service always remembers that it’s dealing with human beings with all their failings and idiosyncrasies. A good case officer is able to evaluate very quickly what type of person he’s dealing with and conduct himself accordingly.

John Little: So maintaining a productive relationship with the source requires a lot of work. Does all the effort that goes into maintaining security and managing the agent’s psychological state help the case officer maintain the necessary emotional distance? It’s never really a “normal” relationship and it would seem that those extra layers of activity would constantly reinforce that.

Michael Ross: That’s an excellent way of framing the relationship. As a case officer, there is so much to be done in the professional domain that the logistics and requirements of the job prevent the relationship with your source from becoming a true “friendship”. It’s important to also remember that a case officer has other sources on the go at varying degrees of development at once and therefore is too busy managing each relationship like a plate spinner to somehow turn work into the kind of relaxing and fun construct that real friendship entails. The essence of real friendship is effortless, the essence of being a good case officer is making it look effortless when it’s not.

Having said that, there’s moments to debrief and there’s times when you can hit the bars and relax with your source. Some case officers are fun people and some are very businesslike. It’s a question of personal style and if it works, then nobody will question it. I’m an introvert at heart but the work forced me to overcome that part of myself and become someone else for the purpose of getting the job done. I actually enjoyed that transformation and still do on the rare occasions that I still have to step out on myself.

John Little: How does this dynamic change when a case officer’s leadership gets involved? It’s not too difficult to imagine a scenario where all three players have different expectations from the relationship. Do these kinds of breakdowns occur? Are there common strategies for managing this problem?

Michael Ross: The Mossad, because of its size and small cadre of case officers at its disposal, has to be really selective about the sources that it recruits. This means that the case officer’s leadership is involved in much of the process in a collaborative way. Having said that, I remember taking two senior managers from HQ to a country in Africa who had never visited before to meet some sources and one of the managers – who served in France – made a comment about the conduct of my source that I took rather personally. In defence of my source I made an angry comment about Africa not being exactly the same as Europe. I knew the terrain and the local attitudes and my manager was looking at it from the perspective of his experiences in Europe. I received a stern rebuke and the moment was instructive. I endeavored thereafter to educate my managers about the way business is done in the places I chose to serve and also remember that yes, a source needs his case officer to be his advocate with his own people from time to time.

Even in the most collaborative environment, the friction between field and HQ will always exist.

John Little: It sounds rare but when the collaboration does break down, and the case officer and leadership find themselves at odds, is there a specific approach to working that out or do they eventually end the conversation, pull rank, and force the case officer to carry out their instructions? And while we are on the topic is it fair to say that headquarters has to manage it’s case officers to some degree the same way case officers manage their agents?

Michael Ross: I don’t think I ever saw a complete break down between case officer and HQ but there are differences of opinion on how to approach a recruitment operation. These details are always hashed out in advance. Case officers are expected to work with little guidance and a fair amount of autonomy but the reporting structure makes sure that there is no real disconnect.

As far as case officer management goes, that’s a really interesting question because case officers tend to be people with subtle (and at times not so subtle) powers of persuasion and manipulation. Issues arise when case officers think it’s okay to use this finely honed skill in their personal lives and with colleagues at work. It’s considered very bad form in the Mossad for a case officer to try and use his skills on colleagues or as a means to advance his or her career. It’s extremely rare, but it does happen. Case officers (and combatants) are a special demographic that requires careful, but not overly stringent management. One of the advantages that the Mossad has is that it’s senior ranks are not professional bureaucrats but people who have earned their position through successful careers in the field – and these are not people to be trifled with. In fact, it’s not usual to have a new division head appointed that has barely spent anytime at all inside Mossad HQ.

John Little: Despite the Mossad’s laser focus on its mission, the excellent training and a generally effective chain of command I still get the sense that you can personally relate to the source of Alec Leamas’ cynicism. Can you, in very general terms, touch on the decisions or outcomes during your career that didn’t set will with you and perhaps still don’t?

Michael Ross: As someone whose career was almost entirely based in the field I can very much identify with Alec Leamas and his cynicism. There’s a great (and in my view under-noticed) part in “The Spy Who Came in From the Cold” where Le Carre talks about the essence of being a spy and living a life under cover: “In itself, the practice of deception is not particularly exacting; it is a matter of experience, of professional expertise, it is a facility most of us can acquire. But while a confidence trickster, a play-actor or a gambler can return from his performance to the ranks of his admirers, the secret agent enjoys no such relief. For him, deception is first a matter of self-defense. He must protect himself not only from without but from within, and against the most natural of impulses: though he earn a fortune, his role may forbid him the purchase of a razor; though he be erudite, it can befall him to mumble nothing but banalities; though he be an affectionate husband and father, he must under all circumstances withhold himself from those in whom he should naturally confide.”

For all the cool professionalism of my service as I describe it, there are the petty banalities that one cannot escape; the source you detest and yet must cajole and entertain, the bigot, the venal, the malodorous, and the foul. The constant and monotonous surveillance detection routes (try doing one in Delhi in 42 C. heat, it’s very unglamorous). Then there is your own desk officer who forgets to maintain your commercial cover address and brings your credibility into question within your operational environment, the constant loneliness, and the occasional failure. This is compounded by those instances where you are putting a source and his family at risk yet he knows it and agrees because you can help his family or keep him afloat financially knowing his dependency on you is like a drug. He’s your worst enemy and now your best friend. After someone looks at you in the way a drowning man looks at a life preserver, believe me that it changes you and makes you second guess yourself and who you really are. At the center is a sense of duty. This is the only place where soldiers and spies walk a common road; you are expected to do the worst things because it’s a contract you signed and fulfill because if you don’t, then who will?

You can read more discussions with Michael Ross here.

Life at Mossad Headquarters – A Discussion with Former Mossad Officer Michael Ross

michaelross31 Life at Mossad Headquarters   A Discussion with Former Mossad Officer Michael Ross

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. You can follow him on Twitter at @mrossletters. John Little tweets at @blogsofwar.

John Little: There are a few intelligence agencies with high profile headquarters and the CIA leads the pack in that regard. Mossad facilities have a much lower profile (outside of Israel at least). Can you talk a bit about the size and scope of the Mossad’s headquarters – and the environment?

Michael Ross: I am prohibited from disclosing the Mossad’s HQ actual location but it is convenient and well-situated to meet the needs of the organization. It has a very modern (but highly secure) university campus feel about it and the grounds and gardens are quite beautifully maintained. It is a sanctuary from the greater hustle and bustle of Israel. There are even works of sculpture by some renowned artists that adorn the landscape. It is quite self-contained with indoor shooting ranges, meat and dairy dining rooms (the Mossad is “kosher”), fully equipped fitness center and an outstanding gymnasium (where I used to play inter-mural basketball).

It’s not large given the small size of the organization but it is a busy place. The parking lots start filling up early and the lights are always burning at all hours somewhere in the complex. As with any top tier intelligence service with a global footprint, It never actually goes to sleep.

Also like other services, the really interesting activity is conducted off campus where specialized units are maintained in out-stations. The Mossad is very strict about compartmentation so operational personnel do not interact with the HQ component on the main campus. I was in the Mossad for about 7-8 years before I ever set foot in the main HQ campus.

John Little: So it sounds very different from many other agencies that rotate officers in and out of HQ assignments then?

Michael Ross: Very, we have no cubicles and people can, and often do, spend their entire careers overseas until retirement. Some come back to HQ after many years overseas to take up senior management roles. There is also a population of operational personnel that live in Israel but travel to assignments all over the globe on a regular basis and for many years.

John Little: Overall, how did you feel about your interaction with HQ when in the field? Complaints about disconnects and micromanagement are common in intelligence literature. Is life in the Mossad any different?

Michael Ross: One of the great axioms of secret intelligence services is the sniping that goes on back and forth between HQ and the field and the Mossad is not immune to this side of HQ-field unit interaction. Given our flatter bureaucracy and overall size (and compartmentation) there is probably much less of it but it does exist. We have also made significant headway in divesting ourselves of the embassy station system. This makes for a more fluid (and less hierarchical) management style less conducive to counter-productive turf wars.

When I was in the field we used to think that some HQ requests were unreasonable and did not take into account the reality of our working environment. When I was in HQ, I thought some of the people in the field were high-maintenance prima donnas, so it works both ways. One of my great lessons was that HQ always has the big picture in mind so I came to realize that my quibble with some strange tasking did not always take into account the fact that what I was doing was a piece of something much, much bigger.

Our organizational culture is based on our management layers being populated by people whose resumes contain many years of operational experience in the field. If you don’t go overseas, you don’t get promoted in the Mossad. This helps mitigate any HQ-field disconnect because the people giving you taskings and orders at HQ have been there, done that, and worn the t-shirt.

John Little: Was your time at headquarters a nice change of pace or a shock to the system? I can imagine the office politics and rigidity being a bit off-putting after someone has spent many years in the field.

Michael Ross: It was actually an environment that I never really embraced nor felt comfortable with. Suddenly there were all these protocols and yes, a certain degree of rigidity to the proceedings. I was also an unknown because I came from this highly compartmented existence (people serving in the Mossad who are not members of the unit have no idea what my former operational division, “Caesarea”, does in the field). One of the hardest parts of being in HQ however, was the reduction in pay given that being in the field includes all kinda of extra allowances.

So I suddenly show up and everyone pays you a much respect because you were a combatant in the flagship unit of the Mossad but they also say, “You have no clue how things work here, so you better get up to speed and quickly.”

I also realized that all my report writing, cable communication overseas, etc. were all now to be in Hebrew. Both Hebrew and English are official languages in the Mossad meaning you can use either one, but nobody is going to use English because nobody else does. I’m fluent in the language but having been under cover for several years, did everything I could to forget it. Now I’m in a milieu where the majority of people are highly educated native Israelis and the writing and communication standards are very high. When I was in the field, I did all my reporting in English (for obvious reasons).

Luckily, I was placed in a staff officers course right after entering HQ. It’s an advanced course that people wait years to get on and I was able to jump the queue because of my time in the field. Combatants achieve rank at an accelerated pace over their peers in other operational and support divisions and so I entered HQ with the equivalent military rank of Major and left as a branch head at the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel (the ranking is military equivalent as our salaries, benefits, and pension are indexed against the IDF).

It was a real education and I was able to work with some terrific people in the CIA and FBI but after 2.5 years, I could not wait to get back into the field as soon as possible. I don’t have a personality type that thrives in an overly structured environment. I also found the politics of working with the vast and Byzantine U.S. intelligence community frustrating. In retrospect I was probably better suited to working a liaison role with a country whose intelligence service has no diplomatic relations with Israel.

John Little: Were your options limited to domestic postings or liaison roles at that phase of your career? It sounds like, generally speaking, once you are called back to headquarters your operational work is done.

Michael Ross: Typically if you come from one operational division’s field component, you return to its HQ counterpart but I did something different and tossed myself into the deep end by joining a division that didn’t know me at all: The Liaison and Special Political Operations Division known as “Tevel” which is Hebrew for “World”. While liaison work seems cushy, it’s not at all and almost all my colleagues were former case officers or combatants. One of my colleagues was a deep cover combatant for many years and took part in the operation to assassinate Abu Jihad in Tunisia.

Some of my colleagues joined the HUMINT division so coming in from the field doesn’t necessarily ground you in any way. You can go back to a posting in the field almost immediately if you want.

The truth of the matter is that HQ doesn’t need more people to fill roles at the office. Support people can be hired fairly easily. What the Mossad always has in short supply are officers that can be deployed in the field under foreign cover. If you come from an operational background, there are always opportunities to go back out until you return take up a management role at HQ or retire.

John Little: So what was a typical day like for you at headquarters? Was it a constant grind of 16 hour days and layers of bureaucracy to navigate or different?

Michael Ross: It started with 05:30 wake-up to beat traffic and a 45 minute commute to the office where I’d hopefully score decent parking.

Days at work in the office started by reading cable traffic from our Washington station (always entertaining) and meetings both internally and with our liaison partners from either the local CIA station or FBI Legatt (but never at the same time!).

As the CT liaison officer to the U.S. IC, I was constantly exchanging material and data on terrorists and their targets with both agencies, but a huge part of my job was dealing with attack alerts. Israel and the U.S. are main focal points of every potential terror attack on one of our many missions, schools, and military installations worldwide. A source report of an impending attack on a U.S. target would have me coordinating the transfer of said warning to my U.S. counterpart together with our CT division and the division responsible for the source of the warning. I’d call the CIA station on the “STU” (secure telephone unit) connecting the station with Mossad HQ. Together, we’d make sure that all the relevant security functions knew about the warning, it’s viability, and any other relevant intelligence. It was a fast-paced, dynamic position where delay could cost lives. I greatly enjoyed working with my American counterparts and I think it was mutual. Beyond terror attack alerts, we worked on joint operations, exchanged delegations on many mutual subjects and basically kept the relationship on track. I especially remember the period where the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were attacked. Not only was I involved in helping the U.S. immediately after the attacks, I represented the Mossad as part of the CIA team that captured some of the main players in Baku in 1998 (based on our intelligence provided to the CIA). That was a “full circle” moment when I realized how important and powerful liaison relationships can be between two top tier services working together.

I normally worked a 12-14 hour day, but if the terrorist attack threats were coming thick and fast (either sourced by us or from CIA sources) I’d be dealing with them at all hours. It’s ironic, but when I was living under deep cover, I got way more sleep than I did when I was working in HQ. After doing this job, was it any wonder I couldn’t wait to get back to the field?