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Who is Sabotaging Israeli-US Intelligence Collaboration?

Jeff Stein, the Spy Talk columnist for the resurrected Newsweek let loose with accusations of Israeli intelligence industrial espionage in the US as the cause of the holdup in the visa waiver program for Israeli visitors.  That does not square with the facts of the enduring 29 year relations and contributions between the two allies. That was a reference to the pledge made by Israel not to engage in espionage following the conviction of American spy for Israel, Jonathan Pollard.  Subsequent there were more bizarre allegations from Stein at Newsweek. This time it was about an episode involving former Vice President Gore during a trip to Israel.  Allegedly, a Secret Service agent found a Mossad operative hiding in an air shaft listening to conversations.

That raised statements from former Mossad director, Danny Yatom, in a Times of Israel (TOI) report this weekend  suggesting that was ‘delusional.’ He said Israel’s spy agency had less intrusive means of monitoring conversations.  Former Israeli military intelligence chief, Maj. Gen Amos Yadlin,   commented  in another TOI  article, “Israel does not spy on the US “, further suggesting the  Newsweek reports were “unreliable” and sources  “questionable”.  Israel’s Strategic Minister, Yuval Steinitz asked the obvious question was “Someone was trying to sabotage relations?”   Moreover, he was going to investigate this during discussions with the Administration this coming week in Washington, DC.

Who is Newsweek’s Jeff Stein?

Stein who wrote these questionable stories contended in a comment to an Algemeiner account alleging anti-Semitic intent and anti-Israel bias in the Newsweek report that he was neither.  Stein has an interesting background.  Born in Philadelphia and raised in New England, he is a graduate of Boston University who took a Master’s in Chinese History at the University of California at Berkeley. He was  in Army Intelligence during the Vietnam era serving there for a year in 1968 to 1969 and awarded a Bronze Star.

He started out his journalistic career reporting for NPR and worked on fledgling news papers   founding The Washington Weekly in 1981, which went defunct in 1984.  A year later he joined UPI where he ultimately became deputy foreign editor. He authored his first book, The Vietnam Fact Book in 1987. His 1992 Green Beret book, Murder in Wartime caught the attention of reviewers who cited it as the best military morality tale since The Caine Mutiny.  In the 1990’s he began writing for Salon.com exposing the links between Ringling Bros Circus and an ex- CIA official, Clair George.  In 2000, he co-authored  Saddam’s Bomb-maker with  Khidhir Hamza, who headed the late Iraqi dictator’s nuclear program. That book caught a wave of attention. Following 9/11 he was hired in 2002 by Congressional Quarterly to head CQ Homeland Security.  He started the Spy Talk column and blog while at CQ in 2005 moving on in 2009 to continue Spy Talk at the Washington Post.  Along the way he was several articles  about both counter-terrorism officials and the head of the  US House Intelligence Committee   lacking  an appreciation  of Sunni versus Shiite doctrine and Al Qaeda in the Middle East. In 2009 he revealed wire taps of former House Intelligence member Rep. Jane Harman regarding her efforts to aid two former AIPAC officials whose case was subsequently dismissed by a Federal judge for wrongful prosecution. The incident spotlighted NSA warrant-less eavesdropping.  Stein joined the re-constituted Newsweek as contributing editor in December 2013.   See Stein’s Spy Talk columns at Newsweek, here.

The Bizarre Entanglement of Newsweek’s owners at the International Business Times

Newsweek was acquired by International Business Times (IBT) in 2013.  The IBT  founded in 2005 by French American Etienne Uzac  and Jonathan Davis, is the subject of a dossier article in the May/June 2014 edition of Mother Jones“Whose Behind Newsweek” .   There are accusations of  the multi-lingual publication group  principals backed by a shadowy Korean Christian cultist, the Rev. David Jang. Jang founder of Olivet University in San Francisco is alleged in the Mother Jones article  to  have provided funding for IBT.   Further, it is and is alleged  he has  deep involvement in the publication group’s editorial and business management, including sweat shop operations using illegal aliens.  Notwithstanding these allegations by Mother Jones, IBT has hired a credible group of editors with recognized experience at the New York Times:

Newsweek‘s new editor in chief, Jim Impoco  is formerly of the New York TimesPortfolio, and Reuters,. Under IBT’s ownership, Impoco has attracted an experienced and well-respected crew of journalists.  On March 4, IBT also announced that Peter Goodman, an award-winning former New York Times economics correspondent and business editor at the Huffington Post, would take over as IBT’s editor in chief.

Mother Jones extensive investigations of IBT and Jang’s Olivet movement revealed the latter’s influence and bizarre cultist beliefs:

According to the Times, Uzac and Davis said “Jang had no financial stake in IBT or influence on the business.” But the pair acknowledged to Mother Jonesthat Jang has provided “advice” to IBT. And while there’s no evidence Jang controlled editorial matters, internal documents show him routinely weighing in on a wide range of business decisions, from personnel and business strategy to typography.

Jang sees Community-affiliated media organizations, including IBT, as an essential part of his mission to build the kingdom of God on Earth. He has said that media companies affiliated with the Community are part of a new Noah’s ark designed to save the world from a biblical flood of information.

Ex-CIA Official Paul Pillar’s Anti-Israel Smear Campaign

As we posted in our  prior Iconoclast report, we found Stein’s allegations lacking credibility. Subsequent reports by him verge on the bizarre. Yadlin’s questioning of sources is reflected in emerging information on a public source cited by Stein, ex-CIA Near East and South Asian analyst, Paul R. Pillar. Pillar left the agency in 2004 during the period when former Florida Congressman, Porter J. Goss was Director from 2004 to 2006 under President George W. Bush.   Pillar was one of the authors of the 2003 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that was leaked to the New York Times in the waning days of the 2004 Presidential campaign. It used by the Kerry campaign to accuse Bush of ignoring intelligence community warnings about a “failed policy” in the Iraq War. Ken Timmerman in his 2007 book, Shadow Warriors: The Untold Story of Traitors, Saboteurs, and the Party of Surrender  cited Jack Wheeler, a intelligence community insider, calling out Pillar for leading a band of “rogue weasels driving a CIA war… to secure Bush’s defeat”.  According to Timmerman Pillar’s views on terrorism post 9/11 were published in a Brookings Institution monograph, Terrorism and U.S. Foreign PolicyHis views reflected earlier assessments suggesting that state sponsorship of terrorism was passé and that non state actors like al Qaeda  should be treated  as the equivalent of  a communicable disease.  Pillar completely missed the “stupendous growth of al Qaeda”, its relations with the late Saddam Hussein and the Islamic regime in Iran.  Myopically, Pillar never understood Osama bin Laden and the Muslim Brotherhood derived Jihad doctrine.  Pillar believed  there was the equivalent of an iron wall between Sunni and Shiite extremists.  Richard Perle is cited by Timmerman saying that Pillar’s  pre-Iraq war briefing in January 2003 was “the worst in 25 years, couldn’t answer questions, and was clueless about what was going on in Iraq.”  Timmerman quotes the observation by John Hinderecker saying, ” Recent events indicate that the CIA might even be willing to compromise the effectiveness of its own covert operations, if by doing so it can damage the Bush Administration.”

By coincidence Hinderecker, a CIA veteran who also knew Pillar produced evidence of the rabid anti-Israel positions of Pillar in a Powerline report this weekend calling him, “an anti-Israel smear agent”.  Hinderecker cites a piece in The National Interest by Pillar attacking gambling mogul Sheldon Adelson called “The Sheldon Primary”. Pillar wrote:

For this man who will likely have such enormous influence on who will be the Republican presidential nominee, the Republican Party isn’t even his first love among political parties. That would be the Likud party. Adelson’s money also plays a very big role in Israeli politics, much of it in subsidizing a free-distribution newspaper, Israel HaYom, which has the largest circulation of any daily newspaper in Israel and functions as a cheerleader for Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud.

Nor is the United States Adelson’s first love among countries. He has said that when he performed military service as a young man it “unfortunately” was in a U.S. uniform rather than an Israeli one. He has expressed the wish that his son become a sniper in the Israeli Defense Forces.

Hinderecker’s comment on Pillar’s attack against Adelson:

Reading Paul Pillar’s smear of Sheldon Adelson saddened me. Paul, when I knew him, was as honest, as intelligent, and as idealistic as anyone of my acquaintance. Forty-odd years later, is this what liberalism has come to? A dead end where its best representatives have nothing substantive to offer, but can only smear Republican campaign donors? Where formerly brilliant minds labor to justify a claimed equivalence between the Democrats’ “white primaries” of the 1930s and a Republican donor trying to find a good presidential candidate to support?

Ex-CIA covert officer, who goes by the nom de guerre, “Cowboy”, had this assessment of Pillar:

Paul Pillar is a well known anti-American, leftist and anti-Israeli nutcase.  Even by CIA/State Dept bureaucracy standards.  Not surprising, probably, that he links up with similar folks.

The Outstanding Question; who is behind this smear campaign?

Against this background, we can appreciate why former Israeli intelligence heads and Netanyahu government officials in Jerusalem are concerned about what is behind Newsweek launching this smear campaign.  The allegations of skulduggery in Israeli intelligence collaboration with the US are doubtful. These stories come amidst efforts by the Obama Administration, especially Secretary of State Kerry, endeavoring to pin the blame on Israel for ‘torpedoing’ the Final Status talks with the Palestinian Authority, newly united with terrorist group Hamas.

My ex-CIA colleague, Cowboy, observed: “clearly they are cats paws for O’s anti-Israel campaign.”

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.

Why the US Accusations Against Israeli Intelligence are Wrong

For the past two days there are have been a spate of articles triggered by  Newsweek contributing editor, Jeff Stein, who wrote a Spy Talk column with accusations alleging that Israeli Intelligence are operating in the US is at “alarming levels,” “Israel won’t stop spying on the US”. Stein’s accusations:

U.S. intelligence officials are saying—albeit very quietly, behind closed doors on Capitol Hill—that our Israeli “friends” have gone too far with their spying operations here.

According to classified briefings on legislation that would lower visa restrictions on Israeli citizens, Jerusalem’s efforts to steal U.S. secrets under the cover of trade missions and joint defense technology contracts have “crossed red lines.”

This despite a long term valued collaboration by US defense intelligence agencies with Israel. Stein’s anonymous sources appear to paint all Israelis as potential spies.

Stein’s allegations were immediately slammed by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and an Israeli Embassy official in Washington. The Jewish Press noted:

First of all, these are malicious accusations. . . I would not agree to any spying on the United States, not in any form, directly or indirectly.

Israeli Embassy spokesperson Aaron Sagui also flatly denied the charges, telling Newsweek, “Israel doesn’t conduct espionage operations in the United States, period. We condemn the fact that such outrageous, false allegations are being directed against Israel.

The Stein accusations come amidst strains in the relations between the Administration and Israel over the collapse of the failed final status agreements with the Palestinian Authority. This was reflected in Ynet interviews with an unidentified “senior US official” many believe to be former US Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk. The Ynet reports suggested that the US might impose its own terms on both the PA newly unified with Hamas and Israel.

Moreover, tensions between Washington and Jerusalem have increased over the latter’s criticism of the P5+1 talks with Iran over curtailment of its nuclear program. That may be part of the agenda that National Security Advisor Susan Rice brought yesterday for discussions with the Netanyahu government. Those intelligence red line accusations may be behind the tightening of visas for visiting Israelis. This sudden swirl triggered by the Stein  piece in Newsweek has led to an unidentified senior Israeli diplomatic official suggesting in a Ynereport that the accusation may have been “tainted by a whiff of anti-Semitism.” That is reflected in Stein’s Newsweek Spy Talk column interviews with former CIA officials resurrecting the rogue Israeli intelligence operation involving imprisoned American spy Jonathan Pollard.

Jeff Stein appears to be touting a line perpetrated by a former FBI intelligence director, David Szady, back in the middle part of the last decade that there was an Israeli mole or moles borrowing into our national security establishment based on the Pollard conviction for spying. Just recall the FBI sting operation against former Defense analyst Larry Franklin at DoD used against the two former AIPAC senior staffers. Rosen and Weissman were falsely accused. A Federal Judge dismissed the wrongful prosecution brought as a result of Szady’s false accusations. I wrote about this eight years ago in an Israpundit article: “Are we all Jonathan Pollards, now?”

An AFP article, based on Stein’s Newsweek column cites unidentified former Congressional aides in his report said:

. . .  a congressional staffer familiar with a briefing last January called the testimony “very sobering … alarming … even terrifying”, and quoted another as saying the behavior was “damaging.”

“No other country close to the United States continues to cross the line on espionage like the Israelis do,” said a former congressional staffer who attended another classified briefing in late 2013, according to Newsweek.

It said that briefing was one of several in recent months given by the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department, the FBI and the National Counterintelligence Directorate.

The former congressional staffer said the intelligence agencies did not give specifics, but cited “industrial espionage—folks coming over here on trade missions or with Israeli companies working in collaboration with American companies, [or] intelligence operatives being run directly by the government, which I assume meant out of the [Israeli] Embassy.”

Israel’s espionage activities in America are unrivaled and go far beyond activities by other close allies, such as Germany, France, Britain and Japan, counter-intelligence agents told members of the House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs committees,.

“I don’t think anyone was surprised by these revelations,” the former aide was quoted as saying.

“But when you step back and hear … that there are no other countries taking advantage of our security relationship the way the Israelis are for espionage purposes, it is quite shocking”.

A 2011 Los Angeles Times op-ed by Robert D. Blackwill and Walter B. Slocombe, “Israel: A True Ally in the Middle East” noted:

Counter-terrorism and intelligence cooperation is deep and extensive, with the United States and Israel working to advance their common interest in defeating the terrorism of Hamas, Hezbollah and Al Qaeda and its affiliate groups, and preventing nuclear proliferation in the region. There are joint Special Forces training and exercises and collaboration on shared targets.

This intimate relationship reinforces overall U.S. intelligence efforts by providing Washington with access to Israel’s unique set of capabilities for information collection and assessments on key countries and issues in the region. Such was the case, for example, when Israel passed to the United States conclusive photographic evidence in 2007 that Syria, with North Korean assistance, had made enormous strides toward “going hot” with a plutonium-producing reactor.

Slocombe was Undersecretary for Defense Policy at the Pentagon during the Clinton era, while Blackwill served as a diplomat during several Republican Administrations. Their comments in the Los Angeles Times report was drawn from a paper published by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. A Tablet article cited  the authors’ views  in the paper at the time on the extensive Israeli contributions to US national security:

The paper offers chapter and verse on Israeli contributions to the U.S. national interest. They include: Israeli counter-proliferation efforts, such as the 1981 bombing of Iraq’s Osirak nuclear facility and the 2007 attack on Syria’s secret nuclear facility at al-Kibar; joint military training exercises, as well as exchanges on military doctrine; Israeli technology, like unmanned aerial systems, armored vehicle protection, defense against short-range rocket threats, and robotics; missile defense cooperation; counterterrorism and intelligence cooperation; and cyber defense. Blackwill and Slocombe conclude that the alliance is in fact so central to U.S. national interests that U.S. policymakers should find ways to further enhance cooperation with Jerusalem.

Fast forward to 2014. Stein’s Spy Talk column indicates that something sinister is going on in the Washington intelligence community. That Israel, globally recognized  as an acknowledged leader in high tech in both civilian and military applications, needed  to spy on US industrial developments. Doesn’t square. Stein’s anonymous sources on Capitol Hill and in the FBI, CIA, State Department and Homeland Security may be reflecting the Administration’s pique at Israel’s asserting its sovereign right to defend the Jewish nation. A Jewish nation with Jihadist threats ranging on all of its borders seeking its destruction.

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EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.