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Wikileaked CIA Memo Warns of American Jewish Extremists Exporting Terror Abroad

A CIA memo released by Wikileaks on Wednesday looks at America's long tradition of exporting violent extremism abroad, and its implications for U.S. foreign policy.
 
 
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The United States has a long and rich history of exporting terrorism abroad, according to a CIA memo released by Wikileaks on Wednesday. After noting several incidents in which American Muslims launched much-discussed attacks abroad, the analysts warned, “less attention has been paid to homegrown terrorism… exported overseas” by non-Muslim groups. 

The February 5 memo, marked “secret/ noforn” (the intelligence community’s designation for "not for release to foreign nationals"), was penned by the CIA’s “Red Cell,” a group tasked with “taking a pronounced ‘out-of-the-box’ approach” in order to “offer an alternative viewpoint on the full range of analytic issues.” 

“Contrary to common belief,” noted the anonymous authors, “the American export of terrorism or terrorists is not a recent phenomenon, nor has it been associated only with Islamic radicals or people of Middle Eastern, African or South Asian ethnic origin.” According to the analysts, Jewish extremists “have supported and even engaged in violent acts against perceived enemies of Israel,” and “some Irish-Americans have long provided financial and material support for violent efforts to compel the United Kingdom to relinquish control of Northern Ireland.”

The report highlighted the consequences of American violence abroad. In 1994, Baruch Goldstein, an American Jewish doctor from New York, “emigrated to Israel, joined the extremist group Kach, and killed 29 Palestinians during their prayers in the mosque at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron.” The deadly attack “helped to trigger a wave of bus bombings by HAMAS in early 1995.” Kach was founded by Meier Kahane, an American Israeli rabbi best described as a “radical cleric.”

Violent extremism among American Jews isn’t a new phenomenon. Kahane also founded the Jewish Defense League (JDL), which the FBI listed as “a violent extremist Jewish organization.” According to a 1999 article in the Washington Report on Mideast Affairs, “A 1985 FBI study of terrorist acts in the United States since 1981 found 18 incidents initiated by Jews, 15 of the acts by the JDL.”

In a 1986 study of domestic terrorism, the Department of Energy concluded: “For more than a decade, the Jewish Defense League (JDL) has been one of the most active terrorist groups in the United States....Since 1968, JDL operations have killed 7 persons and wounded at least 22.”

Among the acts of terrorism attributed to the JDL was a deadly 1972 bombing of a New York talent agency that brought Russian performers to the U.S., and the 1985 assassination of a regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in California. According to the FBI, in 2001, months after the 9/11 attacks, two JDL members, Irving David Rubin and Earl Leslie Krugel “were arrested by the Los Angeles Joint Terrorism Task Force for conspiring to build and place improvised explosive devices (IEDs) at the King Fahd Mosque in Culver City, California, and the local office of Congressman Darrell Issa.” 

Today, some American Jews support violent settlers in the Occupied Territories. In 2008, Israeli officials warned that a wave of terrorism could “spill over into Israel proper, where extremist settlers could target prominent left-wingers or even national leaders.” According to a report that year in the Jewish Journal, “The latest settler rampage came … after Israeli police evacuated settlers from a building in Hebron. Jewish settlers had moved into the building in March 2007 after an American Jewish businessman claimed to have bought it for them, but the Palestinian owner denied selling it.”

Last month, the New York Times reported that “at least 40 American groups … have collected more than $200 million in tax-deductible gifts for Jewish settlement in the West Bank and East Jerusalem over the last decade.” While much of that is for peaceful purposes, “it has also paid for more legally questionable commodities” like “guard dogs, bulletproof vests, rifle scopes and vehicles to secure outposts deep in occupied areas.”  

The Times noted that the efforts are “effectively obstructing the creation of a Palestinian state, widely seen as a necessary condition for Middle East peace.” “I am not happy about it,” a senior Israeli military commander in the West Bank told the Times when asked about American “contributions to a radical religious academy whose director has urged soldiers to defy orders to evict settlers.”

The Red Cell memo also highlighted the fact that Irish-Americans provided most of the financial support for the Irish Republican Army (IRA) during the “troubles” that plagued Northern Ireland prior to the peace accords in 1994. According to the CIA’s analysis, “The US-based Irish Northern Aid Committee (NORAID), founded in the late 1960s, provided the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) with money that was frequently used for arms purchases.” The U.S. government only began cracking down on Irish Americans who provided “material support” for terrorists after the British exerted heavy pressure on Washington in the 1980s.

CIA spokeswoman Marie Harf played down the significance of the analysis to a Washington Post reporter, saying, “These sorts of analytic products -- clearly identified as coming from the Agency's 'Red Cell' -- are designed simply to provoke thought.” 

The analysts warned of the potential difficulties U.S. foreign-policy makers might encounter if America should become widely perceived to be a source of violent extremism. “If the US were seen as an exporter of terrorism,” they warned, “foreign partners may be less willing to cooperate with the United States on extrajudicial activities, including detention, transfer, and interrogation of suspects in third party countries.” More troubling is the prospect that the perception that the U.S. exports terror, combined with “US refusal to cooperate with foreign government[s]” might lead foreign intelligence agencies “to consider secretly extracting US citizens suspected of foreign terrorism from US soil” in much the same way the U.S government has done since 9/11.

A notable but wholly predictable omission from the memo is any mention of officially sanctioned support for international terror groups. The focus of the Red Cell memo is exclusively on individual extremists and radical groups. The analysts note that the “dynamic belies the American belief that our free, open and integrated multicultural society lessens the allure of radicalism and terrorism for US citizens.” 

But as Princeton University historian Arno Mayer wrote soon after the 9/11 attacks, “Since 1947 America has been the chief and pioneering perpetrator of ‘preemptive’ state terror, exclusively in the Third World and therefore widely dissembled.” Washington, he wrote, “has resorted to political assassinations, surrogate death squads and unseemly freedom fighters… [and] these ‘rogue’ actions worsened local political and economic conditions.”

It is unsurprising that those acts of terror aren’t included in a classified CIA document; but it is impossible to deny that they go a long way toward influencing foreign perceptions of America’s relationship with international terrorism.

Joshua Holland is an editor and senior writer at AlterNet. Drop him an email or Follow him on Twitter.
 
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