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Spying for Zion

Shamai Leibowitz.

Spying goes on everywhere, all the time, 24/7.  But the way spying is treated—when it is discovered, when it is publicized, when spies are arrested, tried, and jailed—is highly variable, especially in the United States.  The timing is almost never a matter of chance, and the latest stories about American Jews spying for Israel are not coincidental. 

Relevant Links
The Israel Hypothetical  Sheldon I. Cohen, A lawyer’s perspective on a question that has been asked of American Jews—and only American Jews—who seek U.S. security clearances. (PDF)
Jonathan Pollard's Legacy  Jonathan S. Tobin, Commentary. At this point, freeing the imprisoned spy would harm no one.  But there is no underestimating the damage he and his Israeli handlers did to American Jewry.

Two American Jews have just pled guilty to attempting to transmit classified information to the Israeli government. In the first case, Elliot Doxer, a computer firm employee, thought he was passing trade secrets to an Israeli consular official—who turned out to be an FBI agent.  Doxler said he was trying to help Israel, but prosecutors noted he was also seeking Israeli help in getting information about his estranged wife and son. He faces 12 years in prison. 

The second case involved a U.S. government space scientist, David Nozette, who pled guilty after trying to sell defense information to a person he thought was a Mossad agent.  Nozette first came to the attention of the FBI for failing to disclose that he had once consulted for Israel Aircraft Industries.  Having identified him as a potential threat, the FBI offered him money.  He took the bait.  He could serve a sentence of 13 years. 

A third recent case turns out to be more complicated and illuminating.  Shamai Leibowitz, an Israeli-American lawyer, worked as a translator for the FBI.  He came into possession of classified documents, transcripts of FBI wiretaps of the Israeli embassy in Washington, involving Israeli efforts to influence Congress and U.S. public opinion in the matter of the Iranian nuclear threat.  Leibowitz disapproved of these efforts and gave the documents to a left-wing blogger, Richard Silverstein, so that Silverstein would publicize them.  Leibowitz has received a 20-month sentence for mishandling classified material. 

No one seems especially surprised that the United States intercepts Israeli embassy communications; recent WikiLeaks documents have provided details of U.S. intelligence-gathering within Israel itself.  But in other ways the Leibowitz case is surprising.  In contrast with several journalists (such as James Risen of the New York Times, who faces a subpoena for having received documents from a former CIA employee), Silverstein has gotten no subpoenas.  Stranger still is that Leibowitz, a well-known left-wing lawyer in Israel, was hired to work on classified FBI documents. By contrast, American Jews sometimes face special obstacles in getting U.S. security clearances: They have been asked whether they would bear arms for America in a war against Israel, a question not posed to members of other ethnic or religious groups. 

All countries spy in and on the United States.  Washington analysts, inside and outside government, share information all the time, and the line between classified and unclassified information is often blurry.  But in the theater of espionage arrests, Israel appears to be singled out, with alleged Israeli spies attracting a unique level of attention. 

In part, this special treatment is the bitter fruit of the Jonathan Pollard case.  Pollard, a civilian analyst for the U.S. Navy, pled guilty in 1987 to providing extensive secret information to an Israeli intelligence operation. Though more damage was done to America by Soviet spies like Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen, Pollard's activities particularly angered the U.S. intelligence establishment: Their counterintelligence arm had been humiliated, and Reagan administration officials like Caspar Weinberger felt betrayed by an ally. 

Pollard was sentenced to life in prison, and American Jews have been in the crosshairs ever since.  In 2004, U.S. Defense Department official Larry Franklin was accused of revealing classified information to two staffers of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).  The case made front-page news worldwide.  After five years, the charges against the AIPAC staffers were dismissed.  Franklin was convicted, but his sentence of 13 years was reduced to 10 months of house arrest.  In the course of the prosecution, it was revealed that the U.S. government had been investigating AIPAC and various Middle East specialists since 1999. 

Other features may also account for some of the focus on Israel.  Along with China, Russia, and France, Israel is said to conduct especially aggressive economic espionage in the United States.  Israel has a small defense relationship with China.  But the rules are different for small U.S. allies than for large U.S. rivals.  In 2010 alone, there were at least 11 major cases of Chinese spying in the United States.  Almost none received any serious media attention, except for the penetration of Google by Chinese hackers.  The phrase "dual loyalty" virtually never appeared. 

Perhaps least coincidental of all, the recent Israeli espionage cases appeared at the time of an interview given to journalist Jeffrey Goldberg by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who described Israel as an ungrateful ally.  The Obama administration's animus against the Netanyahu government is well known, and at least one commentator has suggested that Gates's criticism was designed both to embarrass Netanyahu and to soften the blow of the probable U.S. veto of the Palestinians' "Unilateral Declaration of Independence" at the UN at the end of September. 

Stories about Israeli intelligence operations in the United States abound, often crossing the line into the realm of anti-Semitic paranoia.  Recall, for example, the stories about teams of alleged Israeli operatives posing as art students in the United States and gathering intelligence, possibly related to September 11; or the stories about Israeli spying on phone systems in the U.S. Capitol and elsewhere; or the tales of Israeli agents filming the September 11 attacks.  The circulation given these stories reflects a willingness in the mainstream media to put Israel in a suspicious light. And in the dark, quiet game of counterintelligence, Israel is sent the message that America is watching.  That same message is being delivered to American Jews.

Alex Joffe is a research scholar with the Institute for Jewish and Community Research. 

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Independent Patriot on September 13, 2011 at 8:02 am (Reply)
When are Jewish-Americans going to get it through their heads that the last great bastions of antisemitism in this country can be found in the US State and Defense Departments? These long-time bureaucrats and political appointees want nothing more than to be on the Saudi Retirement Plan when they leave their time of service. The only way to do that is to be more antisemitic than the Moslem world. Interesting how easy antisemitism comes to some people in power, especially those educated at those all important Ivy League Colleges that everyone is so enamored with.

Just look at who is on the Saudi/Arab-oil payroll--James Baker, Lee Hamilton (remember the Iraq War study that blamed the unrest in the Arab world on Israel), Bill Clinton (hardline Russian Jews don't want Peace) and oh, yeah, the new "lover of Israel" former Sec Def Mr. Gates.

The sad thing is just how quickly the lefty-Jews seem to attach themselves to those who are so antisemitic and duplicitous. I wonder were these men's loyalties lie. Maybe someone should accuse them of dual-loyalty. They are loyalty to their Saudi paychecks instead of to the truth about the Middle East and Islamists, something that would actually help the USA.
Michelle Carpenter on September 13, 2011 at 10:51 am (Reply)
It would be an honor to be a spy for Israel.
shushan mussa on September 13, 2011 at 11:01 am (Reply)
These are not Israeli spies. They are american Jews who were tricked by the FBI into providing secrets to those they thought were israelis. They are just like many other Americans entrapped by the U.S. government in various crimes.
Elihu Davison on September 13, 2011 at 2:35 pm (Reply)
Joffe conveniently overlooks the truly serious nature of Pollard's revelations and their consequences at the time. Pollard gave the Shamir government U.S. intelligence satellite photos of the daily Soviet order of battle. Shamir passed those photos along to the Soviets as a threat--that Israel knew Soviet military stationing and could launch attacks against the Soviets if need be.

By providing Israel with this information, Pollard effectively told the Soviets that Israel--and more importantly, the US--had this information. It also told the Soviets that the US had spy technology that could see through weather and camouflage. Worst, the photos also included the computer codes that directed and commanded the US spy satellites.

Inter alia, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg committed their pro-Soviet espionage out of misguided Communist sympathies and were executed as a consequence. (Recollect that during WW II, the time of the Rosenbergs spying, the USSR was a US ally.) By way of contrast, Pollard was well paid by his Israeli handlers. He is no hero.
Cynic on September 13, 2011 at 3:51 pm (Reply)
Funny how the "dual loyalty" libel only applies to Jews and yet Muslims openly say that their only loyalty is to Allah and Islam.
As for claiming that Weinberger felt betrayed by an ally, that's not quite right, given the behaviour of him, James Baker and H.W Bush towards the Israelis during the Lebanese crisis of 1982/83.
They had an intense dislike for the Israelis and Jews and never considered Israel to be an ally but a useful idiot.
Ron Lewenberg on September 13, 2011 at 5:34 pm (Reply)
None of us is privy to what Pollard did or did not give to the Israelis. Pollard has claimed that he only passed on information regarding the WMD programs of Iraq and other hostile neighbors of Israel, information that the CIA was supposed to have given Israel but refused to. The FBI claims that Pollard gave Israel information on US spies in the USSR and intel on the USSR. It is claimed that Israel exchanged this information to get the Soviets to let refusniks emigrate. However, much of this information includes items to which Pollard would not have had access. Robert Hansen and Aldrich Ames had access. It is my belief that Ames used Pollard as a scapegoat for his own crimes, and that the CIA and FBI are holding firm to thie transparent lie out of institutional CIA ineptitude.
wilkravitz on September 14, 2011 at 2:03 am (Reply)
I wonder, do followers of 'other faiths' ever comment on these findings? And are they for or against? In a moral society, this WOULD NOT BE 'just' a Jewish problem. Granted, the world can be a dark and complicated place. But some things are as clear as glass. The troubling biases voiced by members of the H.W. Bush administration are extremely disappointing. And eye-opening too.
Cynic on September 14, 2011 at 7:37 am (Reply)
You mention Richard Silverstein, one of the in-crowd when it comes to the present administration. Maybe he got a pass from Holder, like those Black Panthers who intimidated voters during the 2008 election? Virulently anti-Israel, he has quite a record with his writings for the Guardian.
As for Shamai Leibowitz, he is on record as being a NIF (New Israel Fund) fellow and received a full scholarship at an American University. He worked in Boston on the Somerville Divestment Project as a spokesman for NIF. NIF, that supposedly NGO, was receiving Soros' fungible money, which financed an Arab Communist party in its activities against their Israeli hosts. Leibowitz defended Marwan Barghouti, and he worked for the boycott of Israel as a place to invest in.
Just the right person for the FBI to employ against the Israelis and "dual loyalty" Jews.

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