Israeli Agents Confess to 9-11 Mission
June 28, 2002
The jubilant Israeli intelligence agents caught photographing the attacks on the World Trade Center were allowed to return to Israel where they divulged the purpose of their mission on a television program saying, "Our purpose was to document the event."
I first reported the explosive story of the 5 suspicious Israelis seen celebrating while filming the attacks on the World Trade Center shortly after September 11. ABC News recently reported on this story and added a comment that deserves attention.
The Forward, a respected Jewish newspaper in New York, reported that at least two of the men were Israeli intelligence (Mossad) agents. The Israeli agents were first seen filming the attack on the WTC while kneeling on the roof of a white van in the parking lot of a New Jersey apartment building across the river from lower Manhattan. "They seemed to be taking a movie," the resident who noticed them said. The men were taking video or photos of themselves with the World Trade Center burning in the background, she said. What struck her were the expressions on the men's faces. "They were like happy, you know … They didn't look shocked to me. I thought it was very strange," she said.
She found the behavior so suspicious that she wrote down the license plate number of the van and called the police. The FBI was soon on the scene and a statewide bulletin was issued on the van. The van belonged to a Mossad front company called Urban Moving Systems. Around 4 p.m. on Sept. 11, the van was pulled over, and five Israelis: Sivan and Paul Kurzberg, Yaron Shmuel, Oded Ellner and Omer Marmari, all between 22 and 27 years old, were arrested at gunpoint. One had $4,700 in cash hidden in his sock while another carried two foreign passports. Box cutters were found in the van.
"WE ARE NOT YOUR PROBLEM"
According to the police report, one of the men said they had been on the West Side Highway, which borders the World Trade Center on the west, "during the incident" — referring to the World Trade Center attack. Sivan Kurzberg, the driver, said, "We are Israeli. We are not your problem. Your problems are our problems. The Palestinians are the problem."
The case was turned over to the FBI's Foreign Counterintelligence Section because the FBI believed Urban Moving Systems was a "cover for an Israeli intelligence operation," ABC reported. While the FBI searched the company's Weehawken, N.J., offices, removing boxes of documents and a dozen computer hard drives, the owner of the company, Dominic Suter, was allowed to flee the country. When FBI agents tried to interview Suter a second time they discovered that he had cleared out of his New Jersey home and fled to Israel. When ABC reporters visited Urban Moving Systems, "it looked as if it had been shut down in a big hurry. Cell phones were lying around; office phones were still connected; and the property of dozens of clients remained in the warehouse."
The Israelis had been held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, for overstaying their tourist visas and working in the United States illegally. Two weeks after their arrest, an immigration judge ordered them to be deported, however, FBI and CIA officials in Washington put a hold on the case, according to ABC. The five men were held in detention for more than two months. Some of them were placed in solitary confinement for 40 days and given as many as seven lie-detector tests. One of them, Paul Kurzberg, refused to take a lie-detector test for 10 weeks and then failed it, according to his lawyer.
"OUR PURPOSE WAS TO DOCUMENT THE EVENT."
A deal was struck between Israeli and U.S. government officials after 71 days and the five Israelis were put on a plane, and deported to Israel. The detained Israelis discussed their experience in America on an Israeli television talk show after their return home. One of the men said: "The fact of the matter is we are coming from a country that experiences terror daily. Our purpose was to document the event."