By Grant F. Smith, Director of Research, IRmep
Newsweek reporter Jeff Stein's "double-tap" exposé of Israeli espionage in the United States has put Israel and its American lobby on red alert. Stein's initial salvo "Israel Won't Stop Spying on the U.S." generated howls of outrage over veteran CIA analyst Paul Pillar's accurate assessment that Zionists had been sending spies to appropriate U.S. resources and weapons even before the state was founded. Pressed for details, Stein's second piece "Israel's Aggressive Spying in the US Mostly Hushed Up" exposed a bumbling Israeli spy's unsuccessful attempt to enter Al Gore's hotel room through an air duct. According to Stein, the dwindling number of U.S. criminal prosecutions is because the FBI has been directed by the Justice Department to privately chastise, but not expose, Israel's spy networks. The most recent criminal espionage prosecution, that of former NASA official Stewart Nozette, carefully sealed off his handlers at Israel Aerospace Industries from any consequences. Nozette had received $225,000 and admitted to passing secrets to Israel, but rather than go after his paymasters, the FBI set up an elaborate sting operation. According to Stein, other American counterintelligence officials felt instant push-back whenever they tried to warn U.S. elected officials about Israeli espionage.
The new spying allegations come at an inconvenient time since Israel and its U.S. lobby have been ramping up efforts to obtain visa-free Israeli entry to the United States. Israel's poor record of visa overstays, thousands of young people entering under tourist visas to work in the U.S. and the growing espionage flap appear to make Israel unlikely to enter the visa waiver program any time soon. But three strategies have proven extremely successful in the past for dampening fallout. Flood American influencers with cash, send in Israeli government officials to quietly lobby key policymakers and charge opponents with anti-Semitism.
In the early days of weapons smuggling, Israel's spies relied on the ageless tactic of "spreading money around" to keep criminal cases out of court whenever spies were caught. In 1947, American members of the vast Jewish Agency/Haganah smuggling ring "assembled a war chest" of funds to keep "70 potential indictments in Los Angeles" over weapons smuggling to Jewish fighters in Palestine from going to court. Assembling and carefully disbursing such funds in coordination with the Israeli government worked well in those days and appears to be working just as well today, though the conduits have changed. The Los Angeles Police Department Foundation's decision to host a fundraising gala (PDF) on May 10, 2014 to honor—of all people—Israeli movie producer Arnon Milchan—is the latest version of the strategy.
In 2012 the FBI released compelling files of Milchan's involvement smuggling nuclear weapons technology from the United States in league with Benjamin Netanyahu and California engineer Richard Kelly Smyth. Milchan confessed to much of his criminal past as a smuggler during an Israeli television interview on November 25, 2013. This confession and declassified documents formed the basis of a public complaint (PDF) to U.S. agency heads calling for his deportation over flouting the Foreign Agents Registration Act and for visa fraud. By engineering a fundraiser and LAPD award in his honor, the Los Angeles Police Department Foundation appears to be trying to buy the public appearance that all is well. After all, if the metropolitan police department approves of Milchan, doesn't that prove he's an upstanding member of the community? Perhaps not.
The organization behind the award, the Los Angeles Police Department Foundation core leadership Cecilia and Jeffrey Glassman are longtime Israel advocates. LAPDF has sent police department personnel to Israel (PDF) for training in addition to building up the endowment of cash it provides to the police department for high tech gadgets taxpayers won't fund. These efforts to protect Milchan and change the subject are more refined than in the 1940's. According to FBI files declassified last year, another western state media mogul—Herman "Hank" Greenspun—simply traveled to Washington, DC offering $25,000 in cash to any U.S. government official who would help quash pending felony arms export control indictments against him for stealing .50 calibre machine guns from the U.S. Marines and shipping fighter plane engines to Israel under false papers. Cash to quash also operates at much higher levels.
During the same week the LAPDF was honoring Milchan, President Obama spent hours at Hollywood political fundraisers including one hosted by producer Steven Spielberg. During the final days of the George W. Bush administration, Spielberg successfully led lobbying for a special posthumous presidential pardon for Charles Winters. Winters, who illegally smuggled B-17 bombers from the U.S. to Israel, was the only one of the Jewish Agency / Haganah era smugglers convicted of a felony to actually serve prison time. What demands the billionaire movie mogul might now be making on Obama in the name of Israeli spies Ben Ami-Kadish, Stewart Nozette, Jonathan Pollard, or Arnon Milchan remain to be seen.
Another tried and true method to protect intelligence assets and operations is to send Israeli officials to the U.S. to visit key policymakers and beg leniency. Senator Diane Feinstein, Senate Intelligence Committee Chair, has agreed to an urgent meeting with Israeli intelligence portfolio minister Yuval Steinitz. Efforts to "quietly" calm the waters behind closed doors is Israel's standard practice. When caught red-handed in the 1990's with classified U.S. government information obtained during ADL joint operations with Israeli and apartheid-era South African intelligence services, the Anti-Defamation League called in Israeli heavyweights to lobby the U.S. Attorney General to stop the FBI's espionage investigation of the ADL, according to FBI files declassified late in 2013. Such files detailing corrupt deals forged in the dark are rarely released, but not for lack of public curiosity. Such a long line (PDF) of Freedom of Information Act requests has formed for the FBI's secret file on Israel's recently deceased spy Marc Rich (pardoned of a felony by president Bill Clinton at Eric Holder's recommendation) that if it is ever released, reporters and public watch dogs will have to download it from the FBI's "vault" website rather than burden the FBI for multiple paper copies or files on CD.
Always part of the reaction matrix to allegations or reporting on Israeli spying are immediate counter-charges of anti-Semitism. Smearing the FBI as anti-Semitic was among the first "rapid response" strategies developed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's Steven J. Rosen after he was indicted for espionage alongside Keith Weissman and Colonel Lawrence Franklin in 2005. The AIPAC duo had passed classified information to Israel and the Washington Post in a bid to foment U.S. attacks on Iran. Rosen's internal AIPAC response strategy paper (PDF) called for accusing the FBI "targeted Jews" and of "religious discrimination." AIPAC and Israel activists were later somehow able to get the Obama administration to abandon the extremely tight criminal prosecution shortly after entering office.
Whether the proven—but difficult to hide—tactics of Israel and its U.S. lobby will continue to produce results remain to be seen. As more Americans come to see the cost and endemic corruption underpinning the so-called "special relationship," Israel and its lobby may find that payoffs, rushed state visits, and smears to quash fallout may nolonger work in the Internet era.
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