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Harsh Criticism for Western Spies from Mossad Chief - 2001-09-26

The head of Israel's Mossad spy agency has criticized Western intelligence agencies for relying too much on electronic surveillance. The remarks by Ephraim Halevy were made to a conference Monday night in the central Israeli city of Herzilya. Mr. Halevy spoke very bluntly to a conference on "Intelligence and Peace in the Middle East."

Mr. Halevy told the audience that the terrorist attacks in the United States are going to change the world, even as the dead are still being counted.

Mr. Halevy placed much of the blame for the attacks on an over reliance on sophisticated means of gathering information. He said electronic surveillance had become the high priest of Western intelligence services and blinded those deciphering its signs to the importance of secret agents.

The head of Mossad said the main lesson to be gained from the attacks is the need to revive the use of intelligence agents. They were important thousands of years ago, he said, and they remain important today. "The lone agent is a central element of the mosaic of intelligence in the 21st century, though it was the only element in the days of the Bible," Mr. Halevy said. "His exclusivity disappeared a long time ago. He is one of many competing for the eyes and ears of the investigator, the leaders. In the last few years he has become lost in the scenery of the intelligence field."

Mr. Halevy made it clear that he did not believe he was the only one to discover what he called the Achilles' heel of Western intelligence services. He said the terrorist enemies of the United States had also discovered the weakness and behaved accordingly.