June 15, 2015   |   Naji Dahi
June 15, 2015
(ANTIMEDIA) In 2014, it was revealed that Israel was spying on the secret negotiations between Iran and the five permanent UN Security Council members (China, France, Russia, the U.K., and the United States plus Germany—together known as P5+1) regarding Iran’s nuclear program. More recently, it was revealed that Swiss and Austrian authorities are investigating the extent of said spying. Israel has denied any involvement in the matter, but a spying virus linked to the Israelis was found on the computers of three hotels where the negotiations are hosted.
It may come as a shock to some Americans, but Israel has a long history of spying on the U.S. government, its military, and private sector corporations. While it is common for allies to spy on each other, Israel’s spying is unprecedented in its depth and intensity. According to Newsweek,
“Israel’s espionage activities in America are unrivaled and unseemly, counterspies have told members of the House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs committees, going far beyond activities by other close allies, such as Germany, France, the U.K. and Japan. A congressional staffer familiar with a briefing last January called the testimony ‘very sobering…alarming…even terrifying.’”
Another staffer called it “damaging.”
The spying is even more shocking given the extent of America’s generosity towards Israel. By all accounts, Israel has received $233.7 billion in direct military aid (among many other benefits) from the U.S. over the last six decades. According to If Americans Knew, an independent research institute, since the early 1970s,
“The US has given more aid to Israel than it has to all the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean combined—which have a total population of over a billion people…In all, direct US disbursements to Israel are higher than to any other country, even though Israelis only make up 0.1% of the world’s population. On average, Israelis receive 7,000 times more US foreign aid per capita than other people throughout the world, despite the fact that Israel is one of the world’s more affluent nations.”
So how far back does Israeli spying go? According to one source, Israeli surveillance of the United States dates back to 1954 when “the U.S. Ambassador in Tel Aviv discovered in his office a hidden microphone ‘planted by the Israelis.’”
In 1965, it was revealed that 100 kilograms of weapons-grade uranium was missing from a U.S. research facility. Israel was suspected of stealing the material for its nuclear weapons program. The Bulletin wrote that “The evidence available for our 2010 Bulletin article persuaded us that Israel did steal uranium from the Apollo, Pennsylvania, plant of the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation (NUMEC).”
Closely related to the smuggling of uranium was the most infamous case of Israeli spying—that of U.S. naval intelligence officer, Jonathan Pollard, and his wife. On November 21, 1985, Jonathan Pollard was arrested for espionage while trying to seek asylum at the Israeli Embassy in Washington D.C. Thus began one of the most damaging thefts of American national security documents. According to one source, Pollard stole “an estimated 800,000 code-word protected documents from inside the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and numerous other U.S. agencies.” Pollard and his wife pleaded guilty. She was sentenced to two five-year prison terms but was released early because of her illness. She has since left for Israel and campaigns on behalf of an early release of her husband. Jonathan Pollard was sentenced to life in prison but is eligible for parole in 2015. Israel granted Pollard citizenship and has pressured presidents Bush, Clinton, and Obama for his early release. The damage to U.S. national security was such that whenever the subject was brought up, a number of high-ranking national security officials threatened to resign. Pollard has yet to be released.
Another spy that also helped Israel in its quest for nuclear weapons was the 84-year-old Ben-Ami Kadish. After two decades of providing an unnamed Israeli official with sensitive information about the U.S.’ nuclear secrets and weapons programs, Kadish was arrested. He pleaded guilty and paid a $50,000 fine, but did not serve time due to old age and infirmity. One wonders why the FBI took so long to find and arrest the spy. Curiously, both Pollard and Kadish allegedly had the same Israeli handler. Even the sentencing judge wondered “[why] it took the government 23 years to charge Mr. Kadish.”
Finally, there is the case of Lawrence Franklin, who was arrested in 2005 and charged under the Espionage Act. In January 2006, he was convicted and sent to jail for 12 years for passing secret Department of Defense documents to two high-ranking AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) officials. The two AIPAC officials were also indicted in 2005 as co-conspirators, but the charges against them were dropped four years later after a court required a “higher level of proof of intent to spy. The court said the prosecution would have to prove not only that the accused pair had passed classified information but that they intended to harm the US in doing so.” One wonders why the court all of a sudden required a higher burden of proof. Justin Raimondo suggests that the dropping of charges is indicative of the power of AIPAC.
As can be seen from the few cases highlighted here (there are more), there is a long history of Israeli spying on the U.S. What is new about the spying on the nuclear negotiations is the involvement of other actors (Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany). Unlike the United States, which has tolerated and condoned Israeli spying (Israel apologized and promised not to do it again after the Pollard case), these other actors may not take kindly to Israeli spying and might inflict punitive diplomatic and/or criminal sanctions against Israel. That remains to be seen, pending the results of the Austrian and Swiss investigation. This story is far from over given Israel’s intense opposition to the P5+1 nuclear negotiations with Iran.
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