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The word 'katsa' is a Hebrew acronym, meaning "Collections Officer." There are typically 30–40 katsas at a time, operating around the world, mainly in Europe. Most of the information being gathered for Israel is on the Arab world. The number of katsas is much smaller than that in any other major intelligence agency because of the sayanim, volunteer non-Israeli Jews who provide logistical support around the world. Most katsas are former members of the Israeli Defense Forces, though Mossad itself is a civilian service.
Katsas are organized under the Mossad Head of Operations, in a division known as Tsomet (intersection) or Melucha (kingdom). They are further split into three geographic branches:
- Israelis Branch: Includes the Middle East, North Africa, Spain, and the 'jumper' katsas who move between operations.
- Branch B: Covers Germany, Austria, and Italy.
- Branch C: Covers United Kingdom, France, Low Countries, and Scandinavia.
In searching for candidates, the Mossad administers a variety of psychological and aptitude tests, as well as assessing their own current needs. If selected, a candidate must go through and pass the Mossad training academy, the Midrasha, located near the town of Herzliya. The Mossad academy is the official summer residence of the Israeli Prime Minister. There they are taught the tradecraft of intelligence gathering for approximately three years. The main priority of training is to teach katsas how to find, recruit, and cultivate agents, including how to clandestinely communicate with them. They also learn how to avoid being the subject of foreign counter-intelligence, by avoiding car and foot surveillance, by killing, and by preventing foreign agents from creating 'traps' at meetings. Once training is completed, trainees will spend an apprenticeship period working on varying projects before becoming full-fledged katsas.
Known and possible katsas
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- Victor Ostrovsky: The author of By Way of Deception, which describes how he worked as a katsa for five years.
- Eli Cohen: developed close relationships with the political and military hierarchy of Syria during the early 60s and was later executed.
- Michael Harari: Led a group of Mossad officers who mistakenly killed an innocent waiter in the Lillehammer affair in 1973.
- Mossad officers also involved in Lillehammer affair:
- Sayan (Mossad) – volunteer or informal operatives providing logistical support and intelligence in foreign countries.
- Ostrovsky, Victor. By Way of Deception-The making and unmaking of a Mossad Officer. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990. ISBN 0-9717595-0-2
- Thomas Gordon. Gideon's Spies: The Secret History of the Mossad. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999. ISBN 0-312-25284-6
- Thomas, Gordon. Martin, Dillon. Robert Maxwell, Israel's Superspy: The Life and Murder of a Media Mogul. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2002. ISBN 0-7867-1295-3