The Dirty Pot and The Clean Kettle - Who is Spying on Whom?

Si Frumkin, Editor - Graffiti for Intellectuals - September 20, 2004

The familiar saying about a pot calling a kettle black implies that the black, soot-covered pot is criticizing the kettle for being smudged and dirty. But what if the kettle is not all that dirty, if it is much cleaner than the self-righteous pot?

The revelations by the media of an Israeli mole in the Pentagon in late August are peculiar in many respects. After the initial round of vague accusations there seems to be very little to it - the information that was supposedly leaked to Israel in a very roundabout way doesn't seem to be important enough to warrant all that fuss. The denials of guilt by Israel and AIPAC, as well as testimony by respected and knowledgeable individuals, in and out of government, place the burden of proof on the FBI and, so far, there have been no indictments, arrests or even additional information on why a proposed draft of a policy paper on Iran should be of such paramount importance.

The leaks to the media came from undisclosed sources; there have been no arrests or indictments and little tangible information about anything. The furor and the headlines have so far resulted in a campaign to foster anti-Israel public opinion, a flood of anti-Israel comments in the letters to the editor columns of major publications and accusations of complicity against neo-cons, the contemporary shorthand for politically conservative Jews.

Throughout, indignantly, the American pot has been calling the Israeli kettle black.

Time will tell whether this is only another groundless appearance of perennial bogus accusations of Israeli spying that come and go without results or apologies. The last such rumor was the so-called Mega conspiracy in January of 1997 when the media announced the existence of a mole or a group of moles, code-named Mega, who had infiltrated the CIA. The "conspiracy" was discovered during an interception by the National Security Agency of an encrypted telephone conversation between an Israeli agent who asked for permission to get certain information from "Mega". The subsequent investigation brought no results whatsoever. And just like at present, no questions were asked why the NSA tapped and evaluated coded telephone messages of a valued ally - Israel.

The outrage that so many Americans feel about being spied on is more than a little nave. All embassies try to collect as much information as possible that might benefit their countries. Israel is no exception and neither is America.

The last - and only - apprehended and convicted Israeli spy in America was Jonathan Pollard who is now in his 20th year of imprisonment for giving Israel information which Israel was entitled to share and which was improperly withheld. What he did was wrong, but his sentence is dramatically disproportionate when compared to that of other apprehended spies from friendly nations - Britain, Egypt, France, Saudi Arabia and South Africa. Furthermore, what he did saved American lives: the information he delivered to Israel dealt with the development of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons by Iraq and other neighboring Arab States intended for use against Israel. (J4JP: See the US - Iraq Complicity Page.)

American spying on Israel is both much more extensive and better documented. One of the better-known cases is that of Israeli army intelligence Maj. Yosef Amit, who had started passing sensitive information to the U.S. in 1982, was arrested in 1986, sentenced to 12 years in prison and pardoned in 1996. It is interesting that a Jewish CIA officer, Tom Waltz, based in the Tel Aviv American embassy, recruited Amit.

During the past ten years, at least two Americans on academic and industrial exchange programs were also caught gathering information - one from the nuclear research center in Nahal Soreq (near Tel Aviv) and the other at state-owned weapons development company near Haifa. Both were asked to leave the country without being arrested.

In 1985, the CIA recruited the Israeli politician, Andrzej Kielczynski (also known as Joseph Barak), a friend of Menachem Begin and a member of the Likud Central Committee. He provided information on Israeli nuclear weapons and was involved in Pollard's arrest. In 1991 when he became too ill to work, the CIA revoked his residence permit in the U.S. and started deportation proceedings. He reacted by suing the CIA for pension, health benefits and automatic U.S. citizenship he was supposedly promised. He lost the case but the CIA admitted that he had been employed as an agent. He is now living free in Israel.

Recently released U.S. government papers reveal that in 1967 a highly placed Israeli source, apparently one of the cabinet ministers, passed on vital information to the U.S. military attaché at the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv who described the material as "excellent". In particular, the U.S. was interested in the progress Israel was making in developing nuclear weapons that might be used during the 6-Day War. The mole's name will probably never be known.

Whatever the outcome of the current tempest in a teapot one thing is sure: the American pot is much dirtier than the Israeli kettle.

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