Breaking the Taboo on Israel's Spying Efforts on the United States
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Scratch a counterintelligence officer in the U.S. government and they'll tell you that Israel is not a friend to the United States.
This is because Israel runs one of the most aggressive and damaging espionage networks targeting the U.S.. The fact of Israeli penetration into the country is not a subject oft-discussed in the media or in the circles of governance, due to the extreme sensitivity of the U.S.-Israel relationship coupled with the burden of the Israel lobby, which punishes legislators who dare to criticize the Jewish state. The void where the facts should sit is filled instead with the hallucinations of conspiracy theory -- the kind in which, for example, agents of the Mossad, Israel’s top intelligence agency, engineer the 9/11 attacks, while 4,000 Israelis in the Twin Towers somehow all get word to escape before the planes hit. The effect, as disturbing as it is ironic, is that the less the truth is addressed, the more noxious the falsity that spreads.
Israel's spying on the U.S., however, is a matter of public record, and neither conspiracy nor theory is needed to present the evidence. When the FBI produces its annual report to Congress concerning "Foreign Economic Collection and Industrial Espionage," Israel and its intelligence services often feature prominently as a threat second only to China. In 2005 the FBI noted, for example, that Israel maintains "an active program to gather proprietary information within the United States." A key Israeli method, said the FBI report, is computer intrusion. In 1996, the Defense Intelligence Service, a branch of the Pentagon, issued a warning that "the collection of scientific intelligence in the United States [is] the third highest priority of Israeli Intelligence after information on its Arab neighbors and information on secret U.S. policies or decisions relating to Israel." In 1979, the Central Intelligence Agency produced a scathing survey of Israeli intelligence activities that targeted the U.S. government. Like any worthy spy service, Israeli intelligence early on employed wiretaps as an effective tool, according to the CIA report. In 1954, the U.S. Ambassador in Tel Aviv discovered in his office a hidden microphone "planted by the Israelis," and two years later telephone taps were found in the residence of the U.S. military attaché. In a telegram to Washington, the ambassador at the time cabled a warning: "Department must assume that all conversations [in] my office are known to the Israelis." The former ambassador to Qatar, Andrew Killgore, who also served as a foreign officer in Jerusalem and Beirut, told me Israeli taps of U.S. missions and embassies in the Middle East were part of a "standard operating procedure."
According to the 1979 CIA report, the Israelis, while targeting political secrets, also devote "a considerable portion of their covert operations to obtaining scientific and technical intelligence." These operations involved, among other machinations, "attempts to penetrate certain classified defense projects in the United States." The penetrations, according to the CIA report, were effected using "deep cover enterprises," which the report described as "firms and organizations, some specifically created for, or adaptable to, a specific objective." At the time, the CIA singled out government-subsidized companies such as El Al airlines and Zim, the Israeli shipping firm, as deep cover enterprises. Other deep cover operations included the penetration of a U.S. company that provided weapons-grade uranium to the Department of Defense during the 1960s; Israeli agents eventually spirited home an estimated 200 pounds of uranium as the bulwark in Israel’s secret nuclear weapons program. Moles have burrowed on Israel’s behalf throughout the U.S. intelligence services. Perhaps most infamous was the case of Jonathan Pollard, a Jewish-American employed as a civilian analyst with the U.S. Navy who purloined an estimated 800,000 code-word protected documents from inside the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and numerous other U.S. agencies. While Pollard was sentenced to life in prison, counterintelligence investigators at the FBI suspected he was linked to a mole far higher in the food chain, ensconced somewhere in the DIA, but this suspected Israeli operative, nicknamed "Mr. X," was never found. Following the embarrassment of the Pollard affair -- and its devastating effects on U.S. national security, as testified by then Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger (who allegedly stated that Pollard "should have been shot") -- the Israeli government vowed never again to pursue espionage against its ally and chief benefactor.