How does Israeli intelligence recruit agents in Turkey?
During an information meeting held by Turkish intelligence officials, the methods used by the Israeli secret service to recruit personnel in Turkey and how they operate these individuals were explained in detail. According to a report in MEE, "Israel uses a variety of methods to cultivate spies in Turkey, primarily targeting citizens of Palestine and the Middle East."
The briefing to media outlets, including London-based Middle East Eye (MEE), followed an operation jointly conducted by Turkish intelligence and police, resulting in the detention of 34 individuals, mostly foreigners, accused of spying for the Israeli secret service. Turkish intelligence believes that 12 individuals, still at large, may have left the country.
The operation marked the fourth "counter-intelligence operation" against an informant and agent network linked to Israeli intelligence services like Shin Bet and Mossad since 2021.
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According to Ragıp Soylu from MEE, Turkish intelligence officials mention "two groups of people" the Israelis work with. The first group undertakes simple tasks, while the second operates at a tactical level.
Initial-level recruitment activities target individuals for basic surveillance tasks through intermediaries and online platforms.
Turkish intelligence officials state that Israeli intelligence usually posts job listings with little or no detail or sends links to social media platforms and chat groups to select suitable individuals and encourage them to make contact.
The tasks generally appear unrelated but are designed to prepare operators for a final mission.
PAYMENTS THROUGH "HAWALA" METHOD
In an operation in 2022, Ahmet S, arrested by the police, stated in his court testimony last year that he called a number from an ad saying "seeking an employee fluent in Arabic and Turkish", and the person on the other end directed him to WhatsApp groups where he was asked to translate specific topics from Turkish to Arabic daily.
According to the report, Israeli officials do not make face-to-face contact with these individuals, communicating only in writing via messaging applications like Telegram or WhatsApp.
Payments to the recruited individuals are made through intermediaries or reporters recruited online. The recruits are told that the money paid to them is linked to illegal betting and gambling.
Israeli intelligence commonly uses Hawala, an informal money transfer method, through dealers like cryptocurrency, jewelers, and money exchanges to conceal the source of payments.
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Moreover, Israeli intelligence officials, as they build trust with agents, move them to a "tactical level" where they are asked to conduct more sophisticated operations.
In some cases, face-to-face meetings with novices are held, significant sums of money are paid, and they are required to undergo a lie detector test. Agents are also tasked with performing incremental tasks to create an action plan targeting the main objectives.
According to Turkish intelligence officials, the Israeli secret service previously hired a group of private detectives in Turkey who targeted certain individuals by collecting personal information, conducting research, filming targets, taking photographs, surveillance, and placing GPS devices in cars or vehicles.
SPECIAL ROLES FOR "TACTICAL PERSONNEL"
According to the report, Israeli officials select some individuals from the group for more tactical roles.
These "tactical personnel" are tasked with instructions such as creating a WhatsApp group for operation management, designing an online newspaper for spreading disinformation and fake news, and conducting money transfers.
Instructions also include attacks, robberies, and arson targeting certain individuals.
To avoid attracting the attention of Turkish intelligence, Israeli intelligence employs "tactical personnel" who have proven their skills in past operations.
Recruits are offered psychological support and comfort through large sums of money and bonuses so they don't feel like they are betraying their country. Successful ones are invited to special meetings abroad and hosted in luxury hotels and restaurants as a reward.
In a documentary aired on Al Jazeera last year, a Palestinian student assigned for tactical operations by Israeli intelligence was reportedly granted a visa in less than an hour by the Swiss Consulate in Istanbul without any application.
TRAINING PROCESS FOR A MOSSAD OPERATOR
According to MEE, the official statement of private detective Selçuk Küçükkaya, who confessed to working for the Israeli secret service in exchange for a reduced sentence in a similar case, reveals how Israeli intelligence trains its personnel.
Küçükkaya stated in his testimony in September that he met with Israeli intelligence officials 11 times in 10 European cities from 2018-2022.
Initially contacted in 2018 by someone named Serkan to work for an insurance company, Küçükkaya was later connected to another person named Jorge via Skype.
In his statement, Küçükkaya said, "He sent me three restaurant names. He asked me to choose one, research its commercial activities, take interior and exterior photographs, and compare my information with his." He continued,
"I emailed my report to Jorge. I asked for a thousand Euros. He liked the report and wanted to meet face-to-face..."
INCREASINGLY COMPLEX TASKS
Küçükkaya also stated that he began meeting with Jorge and his superior, Alfonso, in Europe, receiving instructions for a second task, and reported information he collected about citizens of Iran, Lebanon, and other Arab countries. He was paid in cash at these meetings.
In December 2018, Küçükkaya met with MOSSAD officials in Copenhagen and underwent a lie detector test to determine if he worked for the Turkish state.
The following year, they installed decryption software on his computer in Belgium to communicate via encrypted email.
In July 2020, Küçükkaya was asked to follow M. al-Mahmoud, a Palestinian citizen arriving from Beirut at Istanbul Airport, and track his final destination in the city.
The tracking report was required to include whether "the Palestinian citizen had a team to pick him up or an armed security officer."
Küçükkaya was also tasked with forming a surveillance team. He was advised to use at least three cars and a motorcycle to avoid losing the target and remaining undetected. The goal was to identify weak points along the route of the Palestinian citizens for potential future attacks.
Turkish intelligence also claims that individuals like Küçükkaya were given specially designed bags with hidden compartments undetectable by X-ray detectors and K-9 searches.
According to the report, these individuals are trained in surveillance, photographic documentation, preservation, reporting, and operational security during meetings abroad.
According to Turkish intelligence officials, the Israeli secret service prepares these individuals for any potential needs in operations, such as human trafficking from Iran and Iraq to Turkey, hiring hackers, finding safe houses, and renting ambulances.