I suspect intelligence agencies all over the world are at present tipping their hats, metaphorically speaking, to Israel's Mossad. If published accounts are to be believed (and it's never that simple), their most recent operation was a masterpiece, the kind of thing that'll be studied in training academies for decades to come.
Israeli spies reportedly broke into an Iranian nuclear archive in southern Tehran last year and hauled out half a tonne of documents in operation completed in a single night.
The raid is said to have provided the intelligence behind Benjamin Netanyahu’s public accusation that Iran lied to the world about its nuclear programme before and after the 2015 Iran deal.
The Israeli prime minister described the operation as one of Israel’s “biggest-ever intelligence achievements” but gave few details about how it came about during his speech at the Israeli defence ministry on Monday.
An Israeli official told the New York Times that the Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence agency, first learned of the facility in the Shorabad district of Tehran in February 2016 – just weeks after the nuclear agreement went into force.
The site was kept under surveillance for nearly two years. “Few Iranians knew where it was, very few, and also a few Israelis,” Mr Netanyahu said.
Mossad operatives broke into the unassuming warehouse and stole 55,000 pages of documents and 183 CDs worth of information, Israel said. Mr Netanyahu said the operation was completed “a few weeks ago”.
The vast haul was reportedly spirited out of Iran and back to Israel in a single night. There was no detail about how the Mossad agents managed to get such a large and physically heavy haul out of the country.
Donald Trump was reportedly briefed on the operation this January by Yossi Cohen, the head of the Mossad, during a trip to Washington.
The documents, which were almost all in Farsi, were shared with the US. “We assess that the documents we have reviewed are authentic,” said Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state.
There's more at the link.
If they got them all out in one night, that would have been a very precisely coordinated operation indeed, probably involving both ground and air transportation. From an "informed amateur" perspective, I'd suspect it involved vehicles that could be driven to a secluded spot where a C-130 transport (or something similar) could land. The vehicles would have been driven straight up the ramp into the cargo hold and strapped down, then the plane would have taken off again. It could probably have been in and out of the country in no more than an hour or two.
Smart work, and very courageous indeed on the part of the operators involved. Capture would undoubtedly have resulted in torture and an agonizing death. Kudos to all involved.
As for Iranian security procedures . . . dare one say they were clearly Farsi-cal?