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Mossad spy chief on 9/11: We realized rules for fighting terror had to change

11 20 1

When American Airlines Flight 11 struck the World Trade Center’s North Tower on September 11, 2001, then-Mossad chief Efraim Halevy was in the middle of a meeting with then-prime minister Ariel Sharon.

“Suddenly someone came in the room, passed him a piece of paper. And he said to me, ‘Something has happened. I think you shouldn’t be here, you should be in your office.’ I said, ‘What happened?’ He told me briefly, and I was off on my way,” Halevy recalled, speaking to The Times of Israel ahead of the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

“The 9/11 events caught everyone by surprise,” he said.

Halevy, 86, had been the head of the Mossad spy agency for three and a half years when two planes hit the World Trade Center, a third hit the Pentagon and a fourth crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, after the passengers regained control of the aircraft from the hijackers and prevented it from hitting its target, which investigators believe was either the White House or the US Capitol.

The British-born spymaster was wary of revisiting many of the technical questions of the Mossad’s activities following the attacks — what they knew and when and what was shared with the United States — but he said there was a general effort to bring whatever relevant information it collected with the Americans.

“I’m now well past 80 and to start going into my memory, which has all kinds of ‘boxes,’ some which are very full and some of which are emptying up — I would rather not go into that minefield,” he said.

“We had an understanding that on this issue we had to cooperate in bringing information [to the US] if it came our way and to initiate activities to gather information subsequent to the attack.”

Halevy recalled a grim mood in the Mossad following the attack and not only out of an understanding that a major event had taken place with the potential to significantly reshape the world.

“It was a very somber atmosphere. An Israeli was killed in one of the aircraft, he had been an officer in an elite unit in Israel. So there was an Israeli ‘angle’ to this, beyond the Israelis who were killed in New York, which was an event itself,” he said.

American-Israeli mathematician and businessman Daniel Lewin is believed to have been the first person killed in the September 11 attacks, having been stabbed to death by one of the terrorists on board American Airlines Flight 11 as he........

© The Times of Israel

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