Watching the Watchers: Who Monitors the Mossad?

The Mossad answers exclusively to the PM, and the identity of its head only became public after his appointment. This does not allow for sufficient public oversight.

After eight years and two months on the job, Meir Dagan will end his tenure as head of the Mossad espionage agency in a month. This is similar in length to Yitzhak Hofi's tenure as Mossad chief, and surpassed in duration by only that of Isser Harel. As far as we know, and considering we can never really know what happens behind the Mossad's closed doors, Dagan has a positive record overall. There may have been failures, including some major ones, but more than that he and his people had successes.

Despite such a record, extending the terms of senior figures in security organizations is not desirable. Dagan would have made a better Mossad head had he been satisfied with five or six years on the job, but he and his superiors could not resist the temptation. Their greed was punished with the exposure of Mossad involvement in the assassination of Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai in January, according to Dubai authorities, and the diplomatic crisis that erupted between Israel and those countries who claimed their passports were forged for use in the operation.

The effectiveness of a manager, especially of those organizations that produce knowledge unavailable to external parties, can also be seen in the wisdom he puts into preparing successors. This was also a weak point for Dagan, whose deputies despaired and left, one after another. When it came time to decide, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu selected one of those deputies, Tamir Pardo, but only after Pardo had spent a year and a half outside the Mossad - the second time he'd left the agency while Dagan was at the helm.

Pardo is returning at the same age that Dagan arrived, 57. His background is less operational than that of Dagan - who advanced in the IDF through his service in special forces, the armored corps and the Lebanese quagmire - but it is more "Mossad." Pardo's appointment was welcomed with pleasure throughout the organization; still, he must prove his mettle through contacts with the Israel Defense Forces (especially Military Intelligence ), the Shin Bet security service, the political echelon and foreign intelligence agencies.

The Mossad has an essential function as an intelligence gathering agency, and in its ability to neutralize threats. It answers exclusively to the prime minister, and the identity of its head only became public after his appointment. This does not allow for sufficient public oversight - neither on the process of the appointment, nor on his performance. This must also be addressed during the changeover.