Spy Stories: Allegations of Israeli Spying Usually Disappear -- Eventually (CAMERA-COMMITTEE ACCURACY MIDDLE EAST REPORTING AMERICA) by Alex Safian 08/29/04)
CAMERA-Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America
CAMERA-Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America Articles-Index-Top
Reports that the FBI suspects a mid-level Pentagon employee
specializing in Iranian affairs of conveying classified documents to
the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, and further that two of the lobby´s
employees may have passed those documents to Israel, have led to a
predictable storm of press coverage, much of it overheated. CBS, for
example, led its Nightly News on Friday with its "scoop," and ABC´s
Nightline replaced its scheduled program with coverage of the spy
story. For some unexplained reason the Nightline program included a
segment on the USS Liberty incident and an interview with discredited
Israel-basher and conspiracy theorist James Bamford.
Israeli officials and AIPAC have strongly denied any involvement in
spying on America, and it is far too early to say whether anyone will
be arrested or convicted of anything in this case, or whether any
sensitive information was compromised. But there is no doubt that in
its coverage of the affair the media has forgotten two fundamental
There have been entirely similar charges in the past of alleged
spying for Israel which ended up being dropped for lack of evidence
Countries don´t just spy on their enemies, they also spy on their
friends. It is well known, for example, that Israel has spied on
America at least once in the past, in the Jonathan Pollard affair,
which Israel apologized for. Less well known, however, is the fact
that the United States has also spied on Israel, even recruiting
Israeli military officers and politicians.
Israel´s Alleged Spies
Supposed spies for Israel have included David Tenenbaum, an Orthodox
Jew and engineer who worked at the U.S. Army Tank Automotive and
Armaments Command in Warren Michigan. Tenenbaum was charged with
passing sensitive information on the Patriot missile and advanced
armor to Israel. (Detroit Free Press, Feb. 20, 1997) More than a year
later the case was quietly dropped, with the FBI stating only
that "The case is closed. No criminal charges have been filed."
After the case was dropped Tenenbaum got his job back, but he has
filed a lawsuit against the government claiming that he was singled
out for scrutiny and prosecution solely for his religious beliefs.
(Detroit Free Press, Oct. 13, 2000)
Also suspected of spying for Israel was CIA employee Adam Ciralsky.
According to an internal CIA memo Ciralsky was guilty
of "deliberately compromising U.S. government classified information
to an Israeli national, accepting compensation from an Israeli
national in exchange for U.S. government classified information, and
deliberately concealing from the U.S. government a relationship with
an Israeli national." (Associated Press, Feb. 7, 2000)
Despite the seemingly serious charges against Ciralsky, he has to
this date not been charged with any wrongdoing, and he has filed his
own lawsuit against the U.S. government, charging that he was:
... unjustly singled out for investigation and subsequently
interrogated, harassed, surveilled and terminated from employment
with the CIA solely because he is a Jew and he practices the Jewish
religion. Moreover, this ultra vires and constitutionally repugnant
conduct was knowingly undertaken by defendants in conformance with a
custom, policy and practice of both the CIA and FBI. Here, Mr.
Ciralsky seeks damages to compensate for him for his injuries, and
injunctive relief to prevent further harm to himself and other Jewish-
Americans who work or seek to work in the federal government in so-
called intelligence agencies. Indeed, damages and injunctive and
other equitable relief are being sought pursuant to Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964 ...
In addition, because of the anti-Semitic language used in many of the
CIA´s memos on Ciralsky (references to his "rich Jewish friends"
and "wealthy daddy") , the agency arranged to have the ADL provide
sensitivity training to its internal investigators. (U.S. Newswire,
Apr. 14, 1999, letter from CIA Director George Tenet to the ADL)
Even the 9/11 terror attacks spurred bizarre stories claiming that
Israel somehow had prior knowledge of the attacks, either because its
intelligence is supposedly so good that it knows everything, or
because Israeli spies in the United States had allegedly been
monitoring the Arab hijackers for months. Carl Cameron of Fox News,
for example, offering not a shred of evidence, claimed that
investigators believed that Israeli agents "must have known" about
the 9/11 plot, and obviously failed to warn the U.S. In the same
series of reports Cameron also claimed that an Israeli-based high-
tech company named Amdocs may have compromised both the 9/11
investigation and the security of White House telephone
According to Cameron´s report Amdocs handles "most directory
assistance calls and virtually all call records and billing in the
United States," and the supposed fear of once more
unnamed "investigators" was that "certain suspects in the September
11th attacks may have managed to stay ahead of them by knowing who
and when investigators are calling on the telephone."
The Amdocs story was and is ridiculous, and has been repeatedly
knocked down, only to reappear later. For example, more than six
months before the Fox story aired, a New York Times report on almost
identical allegations against Amdocs was headlined "Israeli Spy
Inquiry Finds Nothing, Officials Say."
It seems that since Amdocs was founded in Israel, no charge against
the company is too outlandish to be believed or rehashed by at least
some reporters and investigators.
Perhaps the most serious instance of supposed spying by Israel
against the United States involved a person code-named "Mega," who
may well not have existed. As reported by the Washington Post on May
... The FBI has opened an investigation to determine whether a senior
U.S. government official has been passing highly sensitive
information to the Israeli government, according to sources with
direct knowledge of the inquiry.
... The investigation was launched in January after the National
Security Agency intercepted a secure communication between a senior
Israeli intelligence officer in Washington and a superior in Tel Aviv
that referred to someone code-named "Mega," and an attempt to obtain
a sensitive American document, U.S. government officials said.
Israeli officials strongly denied that they were spying against the
United States, and also denied that they were familiar with anyone
code-named "Mega." As the officials explained, however, the Hebrew
term for the CIA sounded something like "Mega," perhaps explaining
the confusion. In any event, no one was ever charged with
being "Mega," and it seems the investigation was, again, quietly
dropped. Though, of course, not before Israel´s reputation was again
dragged through the mud.
Despite the nonexistence of "Mega," the Post story certainly did
reveal spying on Israel by the United States. For as the report
indicated, the NSA monitored a secure communication between Israeli
intelligence officials. Just monitoring the conversation, whether it
was secure or not, is spying. But a secure communication would be
encrypted, and because Israel is one of the world´s leaders in the
science of cryptography, there is no chance that even the NSA´s
supercomputers could have cracked the Israeli code. The only other
possibility is a U.S. mole within Israeli intelligence who passed on
to the U.S. the key to the Israeli code.
In other words, the "Mega" case proved beyond any doubt that the
United States was spying on Israel. Nor was it an isolated incident
there have been previous cases of such spying by the U.S.
America´s Spies in Israel
Yosef Amit was an intelligence officer in the Israel Defense Forces,
responsible for running agents in Arab countries, who eventually rose
to command an intelligence base on the border with Lebanon. While
there Major Amit ran into difficulties with the law in 1978, and was
discharged from the IDF. Eventually going to work as a private
investigator, he was recruited into the CIA by Tom Waltz, a Jewish
CIA officer based at the American embassy in Tel-Aviv.
The Americans were supposedly especially interested in information on
Israeli troop movements and plans in Lebanon and the territories,
which Amit provided. He also apparently passed to the Americans
secret documents from Israel´s internal security service, the Shin
Bet, which he got from a friend who worked there.
The Shin Bet eventually caught up with Amit in 1986, when he was
secretly arrested for espionage. The trial was also secret, though it
is known that Amit received a long prison sentence. (Ha´aretz, Dec.
Another U.S. spy was the Israeli politician Andrzej Kielczynski, a
friend of Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and also a member of
the Likud Central Committee. Kielczynski was recruited into the CIA
in 1985 by the same Mr. Waltz who recruited Yosef Amit, and he
allegedly turned over to the Americans information on where Israel
based nuclear weapons, and also helped to uncover Jonathan Pollard´s
spying against America. (Haaretz, May 18, 2001)
Kielczynski later sued the CIA, claiming breach of contract
supposed promises of money and American citizenship having not been
forthcoming. In contesting the suit, the CIA did not deny that
Kielczynski was a CIA asset. Instead, it won the case by citing a 125
year-old precedent (Totten v. United States, 92 U.S. 105 ) to
the effect that "secret information agreements to which a United
States government agency is a party cannot be enforced in the
courts ... because its litigation could jeopardize confidential
information." ( New York Law Journal, Feb. 27, 2001)
In other words, the CIA´s own legal defense confirmed that it had
recruited Kielczynski as a spy against Israel.
Spy stories and allegations always garner banner headlines and
television "exclusives" if Israel is involved, but the reality is
that most such cases fade away for lack of any credible evidence.
Many seem to be the result of overzealous investigators, some of whom
may harbor unfriendly attitudes towards Jews or Israel (witness, for
example, the anti-Semitic language in the Ciralsky memos).
The media, and the public, should remember this when new spy
allegations crop up. The media should also remember that spying is a
two way street and while Israel has spied on America in the past,
so has America spied on Israel. Mentioning this fact in the periodic
stories that allege Israeli spying would provide much needed context.
(© CAMERA 2004 08/29/04)
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