With Friends Like Israel…

I’m sure everyone is familiar with the AIPAC spy scandal in which Larry Franklin, working under neocon Douglas Feith at the Pentagon’s now infamous Office of Special Plans, was caught passing classified documents to two top AIPAC officials, policy director Steve Rosen and senior Iran analyst Keith Weissman. These two men were scheduled to finally stand trial (they were indicted in 2005) on April 21, 2009, but Obama’s Justice Dept. dismissed the charges.. Franklin had already pled guilty and was sentenced to 12 years in a federal penitentiary, but the judge, based on prosecutors dropping the charges against Rosen and Weissman, reduced his sentence to 10 months.

This was not the first time Israeli agents have been caught spying on their good friends the Americans. One you probably haven’t heard about, because the story broke on the day of the 2008 Pennsylvania primary, is the case of Ben-ami Kadish, an 84 year old retired army engineer who was part of the same spy ring as Jonathan Pollard, the American naval intelligence analyst who was convicted in 1987 for passing classified intelligence to Israel. In fact, the number of instances of Israeli espionage against the US are far too many to list here. It’s been going on since Israel’s birth. And it hasn’t stopped.

But there is a bigger, and far more important case that has hardly been reported at all – even in the so-called alternative press. It involves surveillance and penetration of government and civilian communications systems, from the phones in the White House to potentially 80% of civilian phone phone service.

This story begins back in 2000…

…when an article appeared in the Washington Times owned news magazine, Insight on the News. It was a shocking story that cited FBI sources who claimed that the Israeli government had actually tapped the phones of the White House (including Bill Clinton’s Oval Office phone!) along with other secure government communications systems. I’ve known about this article for years but never wrote about it because it was Insight. And while the story seemed compelling, with numerous, credible sources, I just couldn’t bring myself to cite anything from that publication.

The reporters, J. Michael Waller and Paul M. Rodriguez, are both right wingers with long histories of distorting the facts to attack Democrats.. But they appeared to have nailed some solid sources at the FBI. Naturally, their angle was making Clinton look bad for the breach of security. And while I would never defend anyone writing for the Washington Times, I always found it extremely unlikely they would just make up such a story. And, as it turns out, they didn’t.. Here is what they reported:

More than two dozen U.S. intelligence, counterintelligence, law-enforcement and other officials have told Insight that the FBI believes Israel has intercepted telephone and modem communications on some of the most sensitive lines of the U.S. government on an ongoing basis. The worst penetrations are believed to be in the State Department. But others say the supposedly secure telephone systems in the White House, Defense Department and Justice Department may have been compromised as well.

The problem for FBI agents in the famed Division 5, however, isn’t just what they have uncovered, which is substantial, but what they don’t yet know, according to Insight’s sources interviewed during a year-long investigation by the magazine. Of special concern is how to confirm and deal with the potentially sweeping espionage penetration of key U.S. government telecommunications systems allowing foreign eavesdropping on calls to and from the White House, the National Security Council, or NSC, the Pentagon and the State Department.

This was Earth shattering stuff if it was true. In Kenneth Starr’s report on the Monica Lewinski affair, it was revealed that Lewinski had told investigators that president Clinton had warned her that he believed a foreign country was eavesdropping on his calls. This revelation garnered some curiosity from the press, but Clinton denied it and it was let go quickly. But the Insight article, which came out 4 years later, suggested that Clinton had good reason to believe that, in fact, Israel was tapping his phone.

But, as usual, nothing was done. And as a result, what was reported back then turned out to be only the tip of the iceberg. One of the best reporters, if not the only reporter on the topic is Christopher Ketcham. He was the one who wrote the big story for Salon called the Israeli Art Student Mystery about the bizarre case of young Israelis stalking federal facilities, some of which were secret, while posing as art students from an art school that didn’t exist.

Believe it or not, this case was well reported by Carl Cameron at Fox (Seriously, watch it here). It also got a bit of notice at ABC but they all ended up dropping it like a hot potato. Ketcham is the only so-called mainstream reporter (GQ, Vanity Fair, etc.)who has stuck on the story. And stuck he has. He’s written extensively on not only the art student fiasco, but the case of the Israeli intelligence agents who were reported celebrating the first plane hitting the Twin Towers. He has also covered the massive surveillance operations of American communications system by Israeli front companies.

His latest piece is one I especially want to draw to your attention. Demonstrating once again what journalism is supposed to be, and what courage looks like, Ketcham tells a powerful story about a foreign government having unprecedented control over our legislative process, our media, our intelligence and Pentagon operations, and especially our executive branch.

Israel’s military dominance in the Middle East depends heavily on U.S. aid, totaling more than $140 billion since the Jewish state’s inception in 1948. Any reduction in that generous support terrifies our ally because U.S. policy is considered absolutely crucial for Israel’s survival as the regional hegemon. This explains why its intelligence and political action network, unrivaled by that of any other foreign power, has penetrated deep within the U.S. government to ensure that American policy remains beneficial to Israel’s national interests even if detrimental to our own.

“It’s sickening how much reach the Israelis have here,” a veteran CIA officer tells HUSTLER. Another former CIA officer, author Michael Scheuer, puts it more bluntly: “The relationship is criminal, both literally and figuratively. There are a lot of people in the U.S. government in trusted positions who don’t see a difference between being a U.S. citizen and a friend of Israel.”

Examples of Israeli penetration abound. In 2005 the National Security Agency secretly wiretapped conversations between Representative Jane Harman (D-California) and an unnamed Israeli intelligence agent. He promised Harman the prized chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee if she intervened on behalf of two suspected Israeli spies facing jail time in a Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecution. How does a foreign intelligence operative have the sway to fix such appointments? Look to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the powerhouse lobby that funnels millions of dollars into congressional elections to ensure that pro-Israel law makers get elected and stay in office. AIPAC, which ostensibly conducts its work as a legal lobby, has long been a suspected front for Israeli covert action-in other words, a group engaged in illegal intelligence activities against the U.S. government.

Ketcham lists 6 primary tactics, called "penetrations" by CIA whistleblower Victor Marchetti, the Israelis use to manipulate the United States:

Finding Friends in the Media: Pro-Israel pundits are salted throughout the U.S. media. Just look at the kowtowing to right-wing Israeli interests on the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post

Israel also seems to have a voice on “America’s most trusted source for news,” CNN. Before rising as CNN’s star anchor, Wolf Blitzer worked for AIPAC and the Jerusalem Post. He wrote a book-length apologia about Jonathan Pollard, who in the 1980s compromised U.S. security more than perhaps any other spy in the past 30 years. Blitzer, who once traveled the American TV talk show circuit as the “voice of Israel,” has an American passport. From a covert-action standpoint, that makes him a more effective asset.

Pumping Cash Into Political Parties:
During the 2008 election cycle, pro-Israel PACs (political action committees) contributed some $3.6 million to various Democratic and Republican congressional candidates. In fact, pro Israel campaign contributions were eclipsed only by the $4 million in PAC money from the National Association of Realtors. Fortune magazine rates Israel as having the number one foreign-policy lobby, while the lobby’s chief arm of operations, AIPAC, regularly attracts as billed speakers the most powerful people in Washington. Just about every 2008 Presidential candidate addressed an AIPAC gathering.

Watchdog Grant Smith, director of the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy, suggests that AIPAC is no run-of-the-mill political action committee. “I am most troubled by AIPAC’s history of subverting the rule of law in America,” he tells HUSTLER.

This goes back to the founding of AIPAC in 1951, when the Justice Department sought to register the group formally as a propagandist for a foreign power . But due mostly, some say, to the influence and money it pumps into the American political system, AIPAC was never forced to comply.

“In 1984 AIPAC obtained a classified government report it used to negotiate a highly damaging trade agreement with the U.S.,” Smith adds. “In the late 1980s, AIPAC was found to have ‘probably’ violated federal election laws in forming and directing PAC expenditures to favored candidates.” What’s more, according to Smith, AIPAC has helped Israeli arms manufacturers traffic stolen military systems intelligence to third countries.

In his 2007 book Foreign Agents, Smith charges that AIPAC has effectively laundered money to disguise the financial support given by U.S. groups, both Jewish and Christian, to the construction of illegal settlements in the West Bank. “AIPAC has corrupted U.S. governance to advance the interests of a foreign state,” Smith points out.

Getting the “Right” People Into Office: When, in the spring of 2009, the Obama Administration named veteran diplomat and Middle East expert Charles Freeman to chair the National Intelligence Council- a key position in formulating U.S. foreign policy-the Israeli lobby went on the attack. Freeman’s “crime” was offering a damning assessment of Israel’s controversial behavior in the Occupied Territories and its negative impact on U.S. standing in the Arab world. Steven Rosen, one of the accused spies employed by AIPAC, had the chutzpah to spearhead the attack on Freeman,who, in March 2009, resigned from the post, with Barack Obama saying nothing in his defense.

Freeman later issued a blistering public statement: “The tactics of the Israel lobby plumb the depths of dishonor and indecency and include character assassination, selective misquotation, the willful distortion of the record, the fabrication of falsehoods and an utter disregard for the truth. The aim of this lobby is control of the policy process through the exercise of a veto over the appointment of people who dispute the wisdom of its views.”

Nevertheless, the Obama Administration boasts an assortment of pro-Israel players. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel was a staunch supporter of Israel during his stint in Congress, and when the first Gulf War broke out in 1991, he signed up with the Israeli Defense Forces. Meanwhile, Obama’s special envoy to Iran, Dennis Ross-whose consistent pro Israel bias was evident during the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks-has sided with AIPAC in pushing for aggressive U.S. action against Iran.

Building Think Tanks: The American Enterprise Institute, the Project for a New American Century and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs seek to advance Israel’s interests by influencing Congress and the executive branch. Top players in these powerful think tanks have included Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, who pushed the George W. Bush Administration to invade and occupy Iraq. This arguably benefited Israel’s hard-right Likudniks while ensnaring our nation in what one decorated Army general called “the greatest strategic disaster in U.S. his tory.” It comes as no surprise that Feith,Wolfowitz and Perle were each at one time investigated for passing U.S. secrets to Israel. None were indicted. (See The Traitors Among Us, HUSTLER February ’09.)

Tapping the Telecom Network: Israeli wiretapping companies with close connections to Israel’s intelligence services, particularly Mossad, provide their hardware and software to the U.S. National Security Agency for the electronic surveillance of American citizens. Journalist James Bamford reports that these firms can access all kinds of data gathered by the NSA. The upshot: If the U.S. government is vacuuming up your phone calls and e-mails in flagrant violation of Constitutional protections, so are the Israelis.

The implications are huge and troubling, says a onetime high-level Bush Administration counterintelligence official who spoke with HUSTLER on condition of anonymity. “American citizens,” he warns, “could be losing confidential business and proprietary information that could cause loss of jobs, patents, intellectual property and the disclosure of politically sensitive information.”

Why doesn’t the United States government take action to stamp out Israeli interference on
American soil?

Some of the key Ketcham articles on Israel:

The Israeli Art Student Mystery

What Did Israel Know in Advance of the 9/11 Attacks?

An Israeli Trojan Horse: How Israeli Backdoor Technology Penetrated the U.S. Government\’s Telecom System and Compromised National Security

The Israelis Next Door

Read more of Ketcham’s work and look for his upcoming book on all this stuff.

And seriously, watch this Fox report if you haven’t already seen it and can control your gag reflex at the sight of Brit Hume.

13 comments

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    • icosa on April 10, 2010 at 1:15 am
  1. The power and influence that right-wing Israelis and their allies have in our government is probably the most non-covered story of our day.

  2. and we spy, and the Russians spy, and on and on…

    Sorry man, this one you lost me.  I support Israel.  I know its doing some bad things in a bad place and bad situation it is clearly not wholly responsible for.  Perhaps the extreme conditions over many years has contributed to the behavior that sometimes seems ludicrous.  Clearly, we need progress in the Middle East, as in many other places, and the issues are complicated.

    America is no less ludicrous in its behavior than Israel, one might argue, under the circumstances.  Is this a real issue you raise?  How would things be any different?  The things you say about our broken system have more relevance in my opinion.

    Personally, I would rather it be Israel doing this than China or even Brasil, and the latter two are likely trying.

    I would also point out that some like Cameron and Scheuer are alleged to have an express anti-Israel bias.  For example, I commend anyone to MJ Rosenberg’s (no cheerleader for Israel) blurb from January at TPM Cafe, that partly says:

    Former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer really, really hates Israel. No, he is not opposed to its policies. He seems to hate the whole idea of Israel and, as in days of yore, blames Israelis and pro-Israel Jews for his, and the world’s, misfortunes.

    […]

    What drives me crazy is that Scheuer still has any platform, let alone CSPAN, after telling a very sympathetic Glenn Beck that the only thing that will save America from the evils of liberalism is another catastrophic terror attack.

    Imagine if someone on the left said that. But it’s okay for Beck and Scheuer to lick their chops over another terrorist attack here.

    http://tpmcafe.talkingpointsme

    In other words, there may be more to this than meets the eye, and to me it’s important to look at things in context in order to arrive at a balanced judgment.  It’s also more important, presently, to look at our broken system and ways that we create world problems.  We pull our own strings.

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