News reports first surfaced in early March 1999 concerning Gordon Thomas, a Welsh journalist living in Dublin, and his book on Mossad, the Israel intelligence service. He claimed that—eight months before Kenneth Starr had ever heard of Monica Lewinsky—the Israelis had thirty hours of tapes of President Clinton talking intimately with her. He also claimed that Jerusalem was holding these tapes either for possible blackmail or to protect its mole in the White House, code named "Mega." The allegation had an impact (some Republicans jumped on the issue) and is likely to have much more as his ideas seep into a popular culture receptive to tales of Israeli conspiracy. All of which makes it important to look closely at Gideon's Spies and assess its reliability.

To begin with, Gideon's Spies contains many other eye-popping claims. Thomas holds Mossad responsible for the deaths of (among others) Princess Diana (due to its high-pressure tactics on her driver) and Robert Maxwell (whom it murdered). His "secret history" reveals that the organization helped the failed putschists against Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991 and that President Kennedy sold U.S. policy in the Middle East to Jewish interests in return for a contribution of $500.

When one turns from this mirrored world of allegations to the more solid one of known and checkable facts, Thomas fares poorly. He makes up some Arabic words (no dictionary of mine has the word mafafeth in it, which Thomas believes means a meeting house) and mistranslates others (abu, the ubiquitous word for father, he thinks means voice). Dates and chronology pose a particular hazard. He has Richard Helms, who was director of Central Intelligence in 1966-73; filling that position in 1957. He calls the 1973 war the "second full-scale Arab war" with Israel, somehow forgetting 1967. The book contains howlers of inconsistency and passages of stupefying ignorance. This mish-mash of blather, nonsense, and fantasy undercuts all that Thomas writes about the president, Monica, and "Mega."