What do Sanford and Mossad assassins have in common?

Just now I had to drive a member of my family to the airport, and it reminded me of something that Gov. Mark Sanford and Mossad have recently learned:

In this world of information saturation, don’t ever expect to get away with anything. Big Brother (bless him; we all love him, don’t we?) is always watching.

The footage above from the Columbia airport surveillance cameras shows Mark Sanford on his way to Argentina. (Of course, the fact that you can at times walk through that airport all alone makes him particularly vulnerable.)

Then there’s that highly professional grand-slam assassination operation that Mossad apparently pulled off in Dubai in January. A former CIA officer wrote in The Wall Street Journal last month that it’s getting to where you can’t even carry out a professional hit any more without everybody seeing you do it:

I can only speculate about where exactly the hit went wrong. But I would guess the assassins failed to account for the marked advance in technology. Not only were there closed-circuit TV cameras in the hotel where Mr. Mabhouh was assassinated and at the airport, but Dubai has at its fingertips the best security consultants in the world. The consultants merely had to run advanced software through all of Dubai’s digital data before, during and after the assassination to connect the assassins in time and place. For instance, a search of all cellular phone calls made in and around the hotel where Mr. Mabhouh was assassinated would show who had called the same number—reportedly a command post in Vienna. It would only be a matter then of tracking when and where calls were made from these phones, tying them to hotels where the team was operating or staying.

Not completely understanding advances in technology may be one explanation for the assassins nonchalantly exposing their faces to the closed-circuit TV cameras, one female assassin even smiling at one. They mistook Dubai 2010 for Paris 1992, and never thought it would all be tied together in a neat bow. But there is no good explanation why Israel, if indeed it was behind the assassination, underestimated the technology. The other explanation—the assassins didn’t care whether their faces were identified—doesn’t seem plausible at all….

If in fact Mossad assassinated Mr. Mabhouh in Dubai, it no doubt modeled its planning on targeted killings in Palestinian areas—with the use of overwhelming force, speed and control of the environment. The problem with Dubai, which should be painfully obvious to Tel Aviv, is that it is not the West Bank. Nor is Paris now with its web of closed-circuit TV cameras and the ability of the French to track prepaid telephones. The art of assassination, the kind we have seen over and over again in Hollywood movies, may be as passé as killing people by arsenic or with a garrote. You just can’t get away with it anymore.

Of course, the idea that it “went wrong” is debatable. The team killed its target — Hamas military leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh — and got away. Dubai has their pictures, but not their real names.

Gov. Sanford, less practiced in the art of deception, didn’t get away with it. Or did he? He is, after all, still governor.


Some passport photos of members of the team that allegedly were involved in killing Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai in January.

10 thoughts on “What do Sanford and Mossad assassins have in common?

  1. Walter

    Brad do you think you’ll ever get over your jilted love affair with Mark Sanford? You reported relentlessly on him when you were with The State and it appears in your blog that you still are having trouble of weening yourself away from him. It’s almost like Sanford was your first real girlfriend, he’s always in the back of your mind no matter how much time passes. Like listening to guys reminisce about old girlfriends, we really could care less and only listen out of courtesy. Brad it’s time to burn the old pictures and love letters.

  2. Brad Warthen

    Again, Walter seems to have missed what the post was about…

    There’s an additional layer here… actually, quite a few.

    One question: Is assassination a morally superior alternative to war? Elsewhere in the piece in the WSJ, the author mentions the option of assassinating Saddam rather than invading Iraq. IF — and that’s a big if — killing him had ended the tyranny of his regime, would that have been an acceptable option. The civilized mind recoils from direct, deliberate murder, but the civilized mind is a hypocrite. Why would it not be better to kill one man?

    Another topic: Look at those passport pictures. I find myself looking particularly at the young women, and not only because several of them are strikingly attractive. Thinking of those lovely young women as assassins — and cheerful ones, looking at some of their pictures — causes the mind to recoil in another way, one that causes one to think nothing is sacred…

  3. Kathryn Fenner

    I think the Mossad assassins think of themselves as soldiers in a war, same as any GI with a gun….only there are fewer civilian casualties….

  4. Ralph Hightower


    Please don’t provide me with ideas…

    But, seriously, I have no intention of assinating SC Guv’not Mark Sanford. He did an outstanding job of shooting himself in the foot. If the General Assembly had done its job and impeached Sanford in January, we wouldn’t be talking about Sanford still. I truly thought that Sanford would’ve been history four years ago. Dr. Oscar Lovelace attitude of “servant leadership” was and is what South Carolina needs.

    I read the WSJ article and I agree: killing the the snake, Osama bin Laden, regardless of costs would be the preferred method. When I saw the second plane plow into the World Trade Center, I said “Osama”. It (inanimate use of the pronoun is intentional) had tried to down the WTC with the “Van Bomb” and had successful bombings of US embassies in third-world countries, and the USS Cole.

    Let’s face it. We live in a wired world. Security cameras are all around us.

    Watch NCIS on CBS. Ziva David is a Mossad agent.

    I mailed a termination letter to George Herbert “Hoover” Walker Bush. I was generous in the notification; I gave him a year’s notice.

    Okay, Mark Sanford has less than a year left in office to frack South Carolina (frack is in the Battlestar Galactica vocabulary)
    SC Guv’not Mark Sanford’s time left in office:
    303 days, 19 hours, 13 minutes, 54 seconds, 932 milliseconds

  5. Brad Warthen

    Anybody ever read Le Carre’s The Little Drummer Girl? I look at those photos, and I think of the team involved in that fictional Mossad operation. Life imitates fiction imitates life…

  6. orphan annie

    Sanfraud has gotten away with anything. Someone is hot on his lying trail. Someone get Maria on the phone, or get some live footage and perhaps the rest of us will believe it. Otherwise, Sanfraud was up to something, and most people in the state don’t know what.
    I hold some documents he is accountable to that explain why he went to Argentina and what the hell he was doing.
    Then… you’ll believe there is no such person as Maria and you’ll believe Sanfraud is a lying sniffling idiot.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *