Lawsuit by Young Jewish Attorney Charges Anti-Semitism at CIA-Source Says
"They're Out of Control;" ADL Offers Sensitivity-Training
Susan L. Rosenbluth, Editor - The Jewish Voice and Opinion - June 1999 Edition
National Public Radio put it like this: At a time when the nation
is focused on national security, a scandal is brewing among intelligence
agents involving charges of anti-Semitism at the highest levels.
Adam Ciralsky, a 28-year-old attorney, has filed a lawsuit in US
federal court charging the CIA with anti-Semitism. According to the suit,
Mr. Ciralsky was placed on leave from the agency after he failed to tell
a polygraph examiner that he and his family had visited Israel and that
they supported Jewish charities such as the UJA.
According to reports, Mr. Ciralsky was hired by the CIA in 1996.
In 1997, he was scheduled to rotate to the National Security Council, but
was placed on leave due to what his attorney, Neal Sher, the one-time
head of the Justice Department's Nazi-hunting section and AIPAC, called
Mr. Sher said that what he has learned about the CIA's disparate
treatment of religious Jews and security clearances has "stood my hair on
According to Mr. Sher, the polygraph exam administered to Mr.
Ciralsky was intentionally "hostile" even though his client did nothing
wrong. The lawsuit also charges that the government agency subjected Mr.
Ciralsky to illegal electronic surveillance and falsified his polygraph
exam in order to claim that he was not entitled to the security
classification necessary to transfer to the National Security Council.
Mr. Ciralsky's case is based on a CIA document which speaks of
"rich Jewish persons and friends from college."
The document says Mr. Ciralsky has ties to and supports the Likud
party of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and adds "He may not be
telling more because it makes him and his family appear as fanatic
supporters of the hard-line Likud party-and he does not want to be
portrayed as such."
According to Mr. Sher, the document calls for inducing Mr.
Ciralsky to "admit" to his strong ties to Israel, adding that the ties of
Jews to their homeland is understandable.
Mr. Sher has asked US Attorney General Janet Reno to investigate
According to Mr. Ciralsky's mother, Nancy, her son's dream of
serving his country have been ruined.
Among the charges in the CIA document which the agency insinuates
might be grounds for suspicion of dual loyalty is the fact that the
family is distantly related to Israeli President Ezer Weizmann.
According to Mrs. Ciralsky, until last month, her son did not
even know about the distant family ties. Further, she said, the family
has no ties to the Likud party.
Mr. Sher maintained that the families affiliations are irrelevant
to Mr. Ciralsky's loyalty to the US and the CIA. According to Mr. Sher,
the Ciralsky family has felt "real fear" since Adam Ciralsky decided to
sue the agency. The family said they found it "unbelievable" that the CIA
could harbor anti-Semites who would believe that if a Jew supports
Israel, it renders him disloyal to the US.
Mr. Ciralsky's story first came to light from a report on
National Public Radio. According to Nina Totenberg, when Mr. Ciralsky
first came to the national security establishment as a 24-year-old
"wunderkind," his bosses at the Pentagon promoted him to a coveted
position in the CIA honors program. Just out of law school, he went to
work in the general counsel's office, where he was singled out with a
cash award for doing a good job.
But within months, he found himself accused of a dual loyalty to
the state of Israel and a lack of candor in disclosing his contacts with
foreign nationals. Although Mr. Ciralsky is still technically employed by
the CIA-which is why he cannot discuss his case-he is on leave without
pay and has not been permitted to set food in the agency for 18 months.
According to Ms. Totenberg, the lawsuit charges the CIA with a
pattern of rank anti-Semitism against its Jewish employees and Jewish
employees in other agencies screened by the CIA for security clearance.
"We have come across a much more pervasive and pernicious pattern
of conduct that could only be described as blatant anti-Semitism, and now
it's been documented," Mr. Sher told Ms. Totenberg.
According to CIA internal documents obtained by NPR, the agency
had been suspicious of Mr. Ciralsky from the time of his arrival at the
CIA. That the suspicions centered around his Jewish background are
illustrated in a memorandum written to the chief of the Middle East
counter-intelligence group from her boss:
"I'd like to know if he admits his family had actual contacts
with right-wing politicians like Prime Minister Netanyahu. If not
contacts, then maybe his family has donated money to Israeli government
causes. From my experience with rich Jewish friends from college, I would
fully expect Adam's wealthy daddy to support Israeli political or social
causes in some form or other, perhaps through the United Jewish Appeal."
Mr. Sher pointed out that if contributing to the UJA makes
someone suspicious "then the vast majority of the Jewish community in the
US would be under suspicion."
"Strong Ethnic Ties"
According to Ms. Totenberg, Mr. Ciralsky's troubles at the CIA
began the week he arrived, although he did not know it at the time. He
had passed an entry polygraph exam, but, as he later learned, his name
had been flagged for "strong ethnic ties" and his file sent to the
The internal CIA summary on Mr. Ciralsky lists his proficiency in
Hebrew, but does not mention that he is also proficient in Spanish. It
mentions his trips to Israel, but leaves out his visits to China. It
lists the fact that he minored in Judaic studies in college, but says
nothing about the fact that he majored in international affairs.
Mr. Ciralsky first learned about the CIA's suspicions on August
19, 1997, when he took the polygraph exam that he believed would clear
him for work at the National Security Council.
According to Ms. Totenberg, during the seven-and-a-half-hour
interrogation, Mr. Ciralsky was accused of deception, of being a spy, a
dupe, and a terrorist.
Chaperones and Great-Grandfathers
One month later, he was interrogated by the chief of the Middle
East section, who had received the "wealthy Jewish daddy" memo. Mr.
Ciralsky was asked why he had failed to report that when he had gone on a
high school trip to Israel at the age of 15, the trip's chaperone was
Israeli, and why he had failed to disclose that his college Hebrew
teacher was Israeli.
Mr. Ciralsky answered that he had not seen either of these
individuals for years and that, under CIA regulations, he was to report
only close or continuing contact.
More questions followed. He was asked about his connections to
his great-grandfather's first cousin, Chaim Weizmann, who was the first
president of Israel. Both the great-grandfather and the first president
were long dead before Mr. Ciralsky was born. Mr. Ciralsky's family has
resided in the US since the 1860's.
"But now Adam Ciralsky, son of a Milwaukee surgeon, was under
suspicion at the CIA," said Ms. Totenberg.
As the investigation progressed, agency documents show that CIA
director George Tenet, who last November at the Wye Peace Conference
threatened to resign from his post if Jonathan Pollard were granted
Presidential clemency, was kept informed by special memos.
Finally, Mr. Ciralsky was ordered to take another polygraph exam.
Once again, he was told he had failed, but Mr. Sher believes internal CIA
memos show the test was rigged. According to one memo, an unidentified
official wrote: "Tenet," meaning the CIA director, "says this guy is out
of here. Subject is scheduled for a poly. Once that's over, it looks like
we'll be waving good-bye to our friend."
According to Mr. Sher, shortly after the CIA polygraph, Mr.
Ciralsky's lawyers arranged for him to take a polygraph administered by
the former chief of the FBI polygraph lab, a man who had trained CIA
polygraphers for years.
"And it came out clean as could be. He passed it perfectly. There
were no problems whatsoever," Mr. Sher told Ms. Totenberg.
Using his contacts, Mr. Sher has written to Vice President Al
Gore and to the president's national security advisor, Sandy Berger. He
has received no answers.
Out of Control
Ms. Totenberg's White House sources told her they had been
informed by the CIA that suspicion had been raised about Mr. Ciralsky's
contacts by another agency, but a senior intelligence source not in the
CIA told Ms. Totenberg that the information about Mr. Ciralsky is
considered "not credible, not even by the FBI."
According to Ms. Totenberg, that source told her: "The security
folks are out of control, and the higher-ups are unwilling to take them on."
Ms. Totenberg then reported that senior officials at the CIA
proposed settling the Ciralsky case for a substantial sum if, among other
things, Mr. Ciralsky agreed to take a polygraph administered by an
independent tester who would not be briefed in advance by either side.
Mr. Sher told Ms. Totenberg that the CIA "actually reneged on a written
Done No Wrong
While CIA spokesman Bill Harlow would not comment on the case, he
said the agency had done nothing wrong. "We find anti-Semitism repugnant
and reprehensible, and the circumstances that Mr. Ciralsky finds himself
in today have nothing to do with anti-Semitism," he said.
But Michael Sirfrino, a former top intelligence officer who now
serves as general counsel for the Ballistic Missile Defense Program at
the Pentagon, disagrees. Mr. Ciralsky worked for Mr. Sirfrino at the
Pentagon, and it was Mr. Sirfrino who recommended him to the CIA.
Mr. Sirfrino told Ms. Totenberg that Mr. Ciralsky's problem is
that the young man "cannot prove a negative."
"He can't prove he's hasn't done anything wrong. I think Adam has
probably been misled, at best, and there could even have been worse that
was undertaken," said Mr. Sirfrino.
Asked by Ms. Totenberg if he would recommend anybody to go to the
CIA now, Mr. Sirfrino said, "Absolutely not. I think they have an
internal problem. I think it's a cultural problem. And I think they need
to fix it."
According to a report by Seth Gitell in the Forward, the Ciralsky
case has now deteriorated to a semantic brawl between Mr. Sher and
Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League. According to the Forward,
after 14 years of refusing to help Jonathan Pollard because he did not
believe anti-Semitism played a role in his case, Mr. Foxman has
recognized that the CIA is chock-full of "discrimination, prejudice, and
But, Mr. Sher said, Mr. Foxman has recognized these failings in
the agency only because the CIA is now willing to pay the ADL for the
organization's "sensitivity training."
According to Mr. Sher, the people at the CIA who "ruined the
career in government of a promising attorney" don't need sensitivity
training. "They need to learn to follow the law," said Mr. Sher. "Until
Tenet resolves the Ciralsky case, everything else is window dressing."
Change the Environment
While Mr. Foxman acknowledged that the ADL will receive funds
from the CIA for the training program, he said the agency's participation
in the program would help change the environment that permitted
anti-Semitism to fester.
"If one is truly concerned about discrimination and prejudice and
anti-Semitism, one should be concerned that it be repaired," said Mr.
Foxman. "One way to change it is not [only] to settle one lawyer's case."
Mr. Foxman went on to tell the Forward that he had offered to
help settle Mr. Ciralsky's case. "If [Mr. Sher] is so concerned about his
client, I have offered my services in helping to settle the case. The CIA
was willing to work with me. One of the things that was necessary was
that the attorney release me from the privacy act restrictions," he said.
Mr. Sher acknowledged to the Forward that he did not provide Mr.
Foxman with a privacy waiver. "I don't need anybody to negotiate for my
client," said Mr. Sher. "Mr. Foxman cannot settle the case for Mr.
Ciralsky. If Mr. Tenet wants to settle, he can deal directly with me."
Mr. Sher told Mr. Gitell that the details of the
sensitivity-training session confirmed for him the wisdom of his decision
not to allow Mr. Foxman to become involved with Mr. Ciralsky's case.
"It's clear he had other interests," said Mr. Sher. "The concern
is not to get invitations to the White House. Good friends have got to go
to their friends in power and make sure they do the right thing."
Mr. Foxman said he would stand on his record as a Jewish leader
"as to where and when I've gone to the White House and whether or not
that has compromised by ability or my record of standing up on Jewish
Asked by Mr. Gitell to referee, Elan Steinberg, executive
director of the World Jewish Congress, said, "I think it's more than the
CIA that needs sensitivity training."
A Jewish Problem
For supporters of Jonathan Pollard, the fact that Mr. Foxman has
admitted there is a problem with the CIA's attitude toward Jews and
Israel, is something of a victory.
"Even now that they admit there is a 'Jewish problem' in the
agency, rather than confront the problem head-on and address the role
this problem has played in denying justice to Jonathan Pollard and others
over the years, the most the ADL is willing to do is sell their hechshur
to the CIA by providing 'sensitivity-training' to the agency-for a
price," said Mr. Pollard's defense group, Justice for Jonathan Pollard,
in a prepared statement.
"The ADL's closely allying itself with the CIA and attempting to
extend its mantle of credibility to a government agency with a long
history of discrimination towards its Jewish members and Israel-six
additional cases are pending against the CIA-calls into question the
fitness of the ADL as a Jewish defense agency," said the statement.
Several observers have pointed out that the Ciralsky case could
have significant implications for Israel and the Oslo process. At the Wye
Israeli-Palestinian conference, the CIA was appointed to monitor both
sides' level of compliance with the agreement. If the level of
anti-Semitism is as prevalent as recent cases suggest, there would be a
real question as to how fairly the CIA could carry out its task.
It is an open secret that some of Mr. Pollard's worst detractors
are Jews who serve in the intelligence agencies. According to MetroWest
Jewish News editor David Twersky, Ms. Totenberg quotes an intelligence
source who told her: "You have no idea what it was like in the wake of
the Jonathan Pollard spy case. Every Jew was looked at with suspicion,
and still is."
Mr. Twersky wondered if it was only in the wake, or also in the
prelude to the Pollard case. "Which came first, Pollard's spying, or the
CIA's obsession with Jewish ties to Israel?" he wrote.
Mr. Pollard has reported that, following his arrest, he was shown
a list of American Jews and was asked to identify those who had helped
him spy for Israel.
"The flurry of reports about Chinese Americans spying for China
has not produced a similar mind-set with regard to that ethnic group.
Instead, according to the Washington Post, the agency is committed to
further recruitment among Chinese Americans," said Mr. Twersky. "American
Jewish support for Israel cannot provide a pretext for a witch hunt."