Surprise durant la semaine de l’anniversaire de l’assassinat de JFK: Arnon Milchan, producteur juif d’Hollywood, a confirmé ce que nous savions en avouant publiquement avoir été à l’emploi du Mossad dans le cadre du développement du programme nucléaire d’Israël…
Tout le monde se souvient de lui comme le producteur des films Pretty Woman et Fight Club, mais personne ne mentionne le film JFK d’Oliver Stone, un film par ailleurs très divertissant mais qui passe cependant sous silence le conflit entre JFK et Ben-Gourion (le fondateur de l’État juif) concernant le programme nucléaire militaire israélien–que Ben-Gourion jugeait « sacré » parce qu’essentiel à « la survie du peuple juif »–un conflit si important qu’il poussa Ben-Gourion à démissionner de son poste avec fracas.
Quand la réalité dépasse la fiction. Arnon Milchan, acteur influent de la production cinématographique américaine depuis une trentaine d’années, reconnaît avoir été un marchand d’armes et un trafiquant de l’industrie nucléaire au service de l’Etat d’Israël.
Dans une biographie non autorisée publiée en 2011, les auteurs Meir Doron et Joseph Gelman avaient révélé qu’Arnon Milchan était, jusqu’au milieu des années 1980, un agent du Lekem, une agence de renseignement israélienne top secrète spécialisée dans l’espionnage technologique. L’actuel président israélien, Shimon Peres, a reconnu dans la biographie avoir personnellement recruté Arnon Milchan.
Stories about Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan’s alleged double life have been circulating for years.
Now, the Israeli businessman behind hits like « Pretty Woman, » »Fight Club » and « L.A. Confidential » has finally come forth with a stunning admission — for years he served as an Israeli spy, buying arms on its behalf and boosting its alleged nuclear program.
In a far-reaching interview aired Monday with Israel’s Channel 2 TV’s flagship investigative program « Uvda, » Milchan detailed a series of clandestine affairs in which he was involved and particularly how he helped purchase technologies Israel allegedly needed to operate nuclear bombs.
« I did it for my country and I’m proud of it, » said Milchan, who ran a successful fertilizer company in Israel before making it big in Hollywood.
Even there, he says he continued with his clandestine work while maintaining close ties with Israel’s leadership.
According to an unauthorized biography published two years ago, Milchan worked for Israel’s now-defunct Bureau of Scientific Relations, known as Lekem, which worked to obtain information for secret defense programs. The bureau was disbanded in 1987 after it was implicated in the spying affair for which Jonathan Pollard, a civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy, was sentenced to life in prison.
Milchan also says other big Hollywood names were connected to his covert affairs.
« When I came to Hollywood I detached myself completely from my physical activities to dedicate myself to what I really wanted — filmmaking, » he said. « (But) sometimes it gets mixed up. »
The 68-year-old Milchan founded the New Regency film company and has produced more than 120 movies since the 1970s, working closely with directors such as Martin Scorsese, Roman Polanski, Sergio Leone and Oliver Stone. He forged an especially close relationship with Robert De Niro, who along with actors Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck, is featured in Uvda’s broadcast.
« I had heard but I wasn’t sure, » De Niro said, of Milchan’s activities. « I did ask him once and he told me that he was an Israeli and of course he would do these things for his country. »
Arnon Milchan appeared in Los Angeles, California, on 18 September 2008 Arnon Milchan, shown in a September 2008 file photo, said he had long had to beat back Hollywood rumours he was an arms dealerA Hollywood producer behind hit films such as Pretty Woman and Fight Club has said he spied for Israel in support of its nuclear programme.
Head of New Regency productions joined by pal Robert De Niro in Israeli television special that details his covert side gig as an arms dealer for Israel, and how he recruited director Sydney Pollack to help the cause. Note: Pollack joue le rôle de Victor Ziegler, l’homme riche qui loue les services d’une prostituée droguée qui tombe dans le coma au début du film Eyes Wide Shut. Un film qui a attiré des problèmes à son réalisateur… qui n’a pas survécu à son film.RUSSIA TODAY–Hollywood ‘Fight Club’ producer was Israeli spy with nuclear script
Arnon Milchan, renowned producer of such Hollywood hits as « Pretty Woman, » « Fight Club » and « LA Confidential », has come forth with perhaps his greatest story of all: he was an Israeli spy who helped boost the country’s nuclear program in the 70s and 80s.In an in depth interview broadcast on Monday with Israel’s Channel 2 flagship investigative program ‘Uvda’ (Fact), the 68-year-old producer discussed his involvement in clandestine arms deals and efforts to buy technologies Israel allegedly needed to make nuclear weapons.The expose followed Milchan’s career from the late ‘1960s and early ‘1970s, when he was a young and successful businessman in the United States who had a close relationship with current Israeli President Shimon Peres.Peres, who at the time was helping set up the Negev Nuclear Research Center, tasked Milchan with acquiring equipment and information necessary to get the project off the ground.
www.haaretz.com/news/features/.premium-1.559310 HAARETZ–Did Hollywood bigwigs help Israel buy arms in the 1970s and ’80s?
21 NOV 2013
Longtime Hollywood film producer Arnon Milchan says they did, in an interview set to air Monday on the Israeli investigative journalism program ‘Uvda.’
Hollywood is always on the lookout for blockbuster stories, and this coming Monday it will get the juicy details about how a producer working in Tinseltown since the late 1970s led a double life as an arms dealer and Israeli intelligence operative.
Arnon Milchan, the Israeli producer of such smash hits as « Fight Club, » « Pretty Woman, » and hundreds of other films, is opening up for the first time ever about his involvement in clandestine deals to acquire arms for Israel and his work to promote the country’s alleged nuclear program.
The film tycoon sat down with Israeli investigative journalist Ilana Dayan for the season premiere of her current affairs show « Uvda » (« Fact »), in which he discusses his efforts to engage Hollywood colleagues in his work for Israel’s Defense Ministry. Keshet’s show is scheduled to air Monday, November 25, on Israel’s Channel 2.
This isn’t the first time Milchan’s role in Israeli arms dealings and intelligence has surfaced: Just two years ago authors Meir Doron and Joseph Gelman published a book titled “Confidential: The Life of Secret Agent Turned Hollywood Tycoon Arnon Milchan » – which alleged that Milchan was an operative for Israel’s Bureau of Scientific Relations. The bureau, headed by spy-masters Benjamin Blumberg and Rafi Eitan, gathered information for secret defense-related programs, including Israel’s alleged nuclear program. The bureau was closed after Jonathan Pollard was arrested for spying on behalf of Israel in 1986.
The « Uvda » report does, however, contain some shocking new details about Milchan’s work, including claims that other Hollywood bigwigs like the legendary, late director Sydney Pollack and at least one other Academy Award-winning actor, both figured into his work for Israel.
The report reveals that Pollack, who died in 2008, acquired arms and other military equipment for Israel in the 1970s. When asked if Pollack knew about the details of the deals, Milchan tells Dayan, « Pollack knew, but I didn’t want to scare him because he’s American… He could have said ‘no.’ He said ‘no’ many times, but he also said ‘yes’ many times. »
Milchan also tells Dayan that he used at least one big-name actor’s star quality to lure U.S. scientist Arthur Biehl – an expert on nuclear weapons and a co-developer of the hydrogen bomb – to a meeting. According to the report, Milchan invited Biehl to the actor’s home under the pretense that the actor was seeking scientific advice for a project he was working on.
Milchan said he thought Biehl would cooperate because, « Anyone who lives in California is a ‘star-fucker…’ They hear ‘star’…they come running. »
The producer also confides in Dayan that his double-life wasn’t always easy to lead, particularly when what he really wanted was to dedicate himself to filmmaking. « In Hollywood they don’t like working with an arms dealer, ideologically, » he said. « [They don’t like working] with someone who lives off selling machine guns and killing. Instead of someone talking to me about a script, I had to spend half an hour explaining that I’m not an arms dealer… »
Milchan continued, « If people knew how many times I risked my life, back and forth, again and again, for my country. And suddenly, [I have to] defend myself – ‘I’m not an arms dealer, I don’t sell guns, I don’t sell rockets ‘ I should have been aware of that, of what I’ll go through, and said, ‘Fuck you.’ You know what, I did it for my country and I’m proud of it. »
The show also features interviews with Robert De Niro, Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck and other major Hollywood players.
Meanwhile, New Regency films, Milchan’s company, is working on four films slated for release in 2013-14, including « Noah, » a Darren Aronofsky-directed take on the Biblical flood story starring Crowe, Emma Watson and Anthony Hopkins.
HAARETZ–Hollywood producer opens up about past as Israeli operative
‘It was like being a 20-something guy whose country decided to let him be James Bond,’ says Arnon Milchan.
By Allison Kaplan Sommer | Nov. 26, 2013 | 1:17 AM | 4
Move over, « Argo. » On Monday night, the real-life story of the interaction between the glitter of Hollywood and the intrigue of clandestine international arms deals aired on Israeli television.
After weeks of hype and anticipation, the investigative program “Uvda” broadcast a show telling the story behind the glitzy career of one of the most influential figures in Hollywood: Arnon Milchan, the Israeli producer of such hit movies as « Pretty Woman, » “Fight Club” and “L.A. Confidential.”
Though it wasn’t the first time Milchan’s double life as an arms dealer and Israeli intelligence operative has been reported, it was the first time the Israeli-born Milchan, a multi-billionaire, discussed it openly in front of the cameras, and the first time some of the movie stars and studio executives who know him spoke about it on the record.
The show traced Milchan’s career from the late ’60s and early ’70s, when he was a young and successful businessman in the United States who had a close relationship with Shimon Peres. At the time, Peres was in the midst of creating the Dimona nuclear reactor, and Milchan began helping in the effort to acquire equipment and knowledge for Israel’s nuclear project through the secretive agency Lakam, Israel’s Bureau of Scientific Relations.
“Do you know what it was like to be a 20-something guy whose country decided to let him be James Bond? Wow! The action! That was exciting,” Milchan said. « Uvda » reporter Ilana Dayan described how Milchan would set up bank accounts and companies, all used to acquire material and equipment for the agency, while working for spy masters Rafi Eitan and Benjamin Blumberg. Dayan reported that at the peak of Milchan’s activity, he was operating 30 companies in 17 different countries.
In the 1970s, Milchan brokered deals for hundreds of millions of dollars between Israel and U.S. companies for helicopters, missiles and other equipment, « Uvda » reported. Though records showed that his company made profits off the deals – sometimes as much as 60 percent – Milchan insisted on camera that he never kept the money and that every penny made its way back to Israel.
The show revealed that Milchan convinced a German engineer to take home classified documents from a safe where he worked: plans that detailed how to construct a nuclear facility that Israel desperately needed but that no state would share for any amount of money. Saying the engineer « couldn’t be bought, » Milchan said he persuaded him to leave them on a table and went out to dinner with his wife on the understanding that someone would enter the house and photograph them.
Another revelation is that director Sydney Pollack, who died in 2008, was Milchan’s business partner in many of his activities. The director of “Tootsie” and “Out of Africa,” Milchan said, “was my partner in aerospace manufacturing and airplanes, all kinds of things.” When asked if Pollack knew of and participated in all of Milchan’s activities, Milchan said: “He had to decide what he was willing to do and what he was not willing to do. On a lot of things he said no. On a lot of other things he said yes. »
The acquisition of nuclear triggers for Israel by Milchan’s company Milco was what nearly got him into serious trouble when the FBI discovered that they were shipped to Israel without the proper licensing, which led to the 1985 indictment of aerospace executive Richard Kelly Smyth, who used one of Milchan’s companies to ship triggers to Israel. Milchan claimed on the show that “I didn’t know Israel ordered the triggers. I didn’t even know what triggers were.”
Robert De Niro, who was making a movie with Milchan at the time, said his friend “told me that he was an Israeli and he of course would do these things for his country – there was something with the little things that trigger a nuclear thing … I remember asking Arnon something about that, being friends. I was curious, not in an accusatory way, I just wanted to know, and he said, ‘Yes, I’m Israeli, that’s my country.’”
After the trigger incident, which was followed by the 1986 arrest of Jonathan Pollard for spying on behalf of Israel, the Bureau of Scientific Relations was shut down.
Milchan also admitted to having used his Hollywood and media connections to help the South African apartheid regime in its attempts to polish its international image, in exchange for helping Israel acquire uranium. Dayan suggested on camera that perhaps his current role as co-producer of the hit movie “12 Years a Slave,” set in the United States before the Civil War, was on some level an attempt to atone for that sin. Milchan nodded and agreed that it very well might be.
When Milchan’s friends and business associates were asked if the rumors of his activities on behalf of Israel’s military had done anything to tarnish his reputation in the entertainment industry, they said no, adding that the success of his films and his personal charm trumped any misgivings. Media mogul Rupert Murdoch told Dayan: “Hollywood is a very Jewish industry. Very pro-Israel. Many would honor him for it. Others might be a bit frightened by it, but that’s all right.”
The Hollywood Spy
The producer of « Pretty Woman » helped Israel build its nuclear arsenal.
If a man living in America were to go on television and admit that he spent years stealing U.S. defense secrets on behalf of another country, and was proud of what he had done, Attorney General Eric Holder would immediately fly into a rage and call for arrest and prosecution under the Espionage Act, wouldn’t he? Well, maybe not, if the recent revelations made by Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan regarding his spying for Israel are anything to go by. There has long been a certain acceptance both in the media and within the government that something done on behalf of or together with Israel is somehow not subject to the same laws of physics that govern the rest of the political universe. I recall how in the 1980s while I was working in the Central Intelligence Agency base in Istanbul, a delegation from the American Jewish Committee passed through and briefed the Consul General and his staff regarding Jonathan Pollard, who had recently been arrested. They claimed that Pollard was some kind of nut case who could not possibly have been a real spy for Israel. The Consul General, who should have known better than to buy into the obvious damage control, expressed the same view during the weekly staff meeting. When I and several others challenged the credibility of his viewpoint, he shrugged and smiled.
We Americans have since learned that Pollard was not only a fully controlled and paid spy for Israel, he was one of a network of spies recruited by handler Rafi Eitan. The Israelis were so well informed regarding U.S. defense secrets that they frequently were able to ask Pollard to obtain specific files, by name and number, that they particularly wanted to see. Pollard eventually handed over to the Israelis a roomful of documents. Many in the intelligence community believe that the information he provided, some of which was passed on to the Russians and others, continue to do damage to U.S. technical collection capabilities to this day. Pollard, who has been given Israeli citizenship and is widely regarded as a hero by the country’s leadership, is serving a life sentence in federal prison. Demands from the Israeli government to free him are a regular occurrence whenever the American President and Israeli Prime Minister meet. Another spy in the Eitan network was Ben-Ami Kadish, an engineer at the Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey, who provided nuclear and weapons development secrets to his Israeli case officer Yosef Yagur, who also met with Pollard.
Israel, to be sure, obtains much of its information from the United States openly, by walking into an office at the Pentagon or on Capitol Hill and being handed a file. Or over lunch, as when Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin provided intelligence on Iran to American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) staffers Keith Weissman and Steve Rosen, as well as to officials in the Israeli Embassy. Franklin went to jail and is now waiting on tables in West Virginia, but Rosen and Weissman, charged under the Espionage Act, walked due to some maneuvers pulled by an obliging federal judge who was clearly acting on behalf of a George W. Bush administration that did not want the case to go forward.
Less well known than either the Pollard or AIPAC spying cases is the story of how Israel obtained the technology and raw materials for its secret nuclear arsenal. In the early 1960s, President John F. Kennedy learned that Israel was developing a nuclear weapon from a CIA report. He told the Israelis to terminate their program or risk losing U.S. political and economic support but died before he could confirm that the project had ended. His successor Lyndon Johnson was famously tight with Israel’s friends in the United States. Johnson did not insist that Israel end its nuclear program and, as he was privy to the CIA report about the weapons program, may have deliberately chosen to look the other way when Israel was stealing both American technology and uranium to construct its weapons.
Israel always features prominently in the annual FBI report called “Foreign Economic Collection and Industrial Espionage.” The 2005 report states, “Israel has an active program to gather proprietary information within the United States. These collection activities are primarily directed at obtaining information on military systems and advanced computing applications that can be used in Israel’s sizable armaments industry.” Israel has sold advanced weapons systems to China that are believed to incorporate technology developed by American companies, including the Python-3 air-to-air missile and the Delilah cruise missile. There is evidence that Israel has also stolen Patriot missile avionics to incorporate into its own Arrow system and that it used U.S. technology obtained in its Lavi fighter development program, which was funded by the U.S. taxpayer to the tune of $1.5 billion, to help the Chinese develop their own J-10 fighter.
The Mossad frequently uses so-called sayanim in its espionage, which means diaspora Jews that it recruits on the basis of a shared religion or concern for the security of Israel. The threat coming from Israeli Embassy operatives inside the United States is such that the Department of Defense once warned that Jewish Americans would likely be the targets of intelligence approaches.
Israel accelerated its nuclear program after the death of President Kennedy. By 1965, it had obtained the raw material for a bomb consisting of U.S. government-owned highly enriched weapons grade uranium obtained from a company in Pennsylvania called NUMEC. NUMEC was a supplier of enriched uranium for government projects but it was also from the start a front for the Israeli nuclear program, with its chief funder David Lowenthal, a leading Zionist, traveling to Israel at least once a month where he would meet with an old friend Meir Amit, who headed Israeli intelligence. NUMEC covered the shipment of enriched uranium to Israel by claiming the metal was “lost,” losses that totaled nearly six hundred pounds, enough to produce dozens of weapons. In 1968, NUMEC received a visit from spymaster Rafi Eitan, the same Rafi Eitan who later was involved with Jonathan Pollard.
There was also physical evidence relating to the diversion of the uranium. Refined uranium has a technical signature that permits identification of its source. Traces of uranium from NUMEC were identified by Department of Energy inspectors in Israel in 1978. The Central Intelligence Agency has also looked into the diversion of enriched uranium from the NUMEC plant and has concluded that it was part of a broader program to obtain the technology and raw materials for a nuclear device for Israel.
With the uranium in hand, the advanced technology needed to make a nuclear weapon was still needed, which is where Milchan comes into the story. Arnon Milchan was born in Israel but emigrated to the United States and eventually wound up as the owner of a major movie studio, New Regency Films. In his November 25th interview on Israeli television Milchan admitted that he had spent his many years in Hollywood as an agent for Israeli intelligence, helping obtain embargoed technologies and materials that enabled Israel to develop a nuclear weapon. He worked for Israel’s Bureau of Science and Liaison acquisition division of Mossad, referred to as the LAKAM agency. It was the same organization that ran Jonathan Pollard and Ben-Ami Kadish.
Milchan, who is a long-time resident of the United States and still has significant business interests in this country, explained “I did it for my country and I’m proud of it.” He also said that “other big Hollywood names were connected to [his] covert affairs.” Among other successes, he obtained through his company Heli Trading 800 krytons, the sophisticated triggers for nuclear weapons. The devices were acquired from the California top-secret defense contractor MILCO International. Milchan personally recruited MILCO’s president Richard Kelly Smyth as an agent before turning him over to another Heli Trading employee Benjamin Netanyahu for handling. Smyth was eventually arrested in 1985 and cooperated in his interrogation by the FBI before being sentenced to prison, meaning that the Federal government likely knew about both Milchan and Netanyahu at the time but declined to act. For what it’s worth, Milchan now improbably claims that he did not know about the kryton triggers.
I would like to think that the next time Arnon Milchan arrives at LA International Airport on business he will be met by Federal Marshalls and FBI agents before being whisked off to some nice quiet place for a chat. But don’t bet on it. Milchan’s confession suggests that he believes himself to be bullet proof. As in the case of Rosen and Weissman his likely defense would be that he was only doing it for Israel, an ally and friend, which itself is a matter of perception to say the least. That Israel has an unacknowledged nuclear arsenal that violates the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which the U.S. and even Iran have signed but Israel has not, undeniably contributes to the destabilization of the Middle East. A secret nuclear power with a government that many would consider to be somewhat paranoid is certainly not in the United States interest. And some Americans might also be a bit unsettled to learn how Israel’s nuclear capability was acquired by way of Hollywood. Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest.
Please note that I use the word Israeli to refer to anyone of Jewish descent who supports Israel over the US. They are willing to defend the attack on the USS Liberty by Israel and the controlled demolition of the World Trade Center Towers 1, 2 and 7 on 911 by the Mossad.
Mordecai Vanunu was the original whistleblower. In 1986 he told the world that Israel had nuclear weapons publishing photos of the secret Dimona works in the British press. He said Prime Minister Ben Gurion ordered the assassination of JFK because the President opposed Israel’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. Ben Gurion resigned in protest over JFK’s Israeli policies. Vanunu also wrote a letter in 1997 saying that there was even a link between the assassination of Kennedy and Israel’s launching of the 1967 war.
Final Judgement: The Missing Link in the JFK Assassination was originally published 20 years ago in January. Michael Collins Piper in this book argued that the Israelis killed Kennedy. Vanunu endorsed Piper’s book. Read more here
‘Israeli spying in US crosses red lines’ Newsweek reporter Jeff Stein cites classified U.S. intelligence document on « Jerusalem’s efforts to steal U.S. secrets under the cover of trade missions and joint defense technology contracts » • Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman slams « malicious » report.
juif.org – « Quelqu’un veut saboter les relations Israël/USA » Le ministre israélien des Affaires stratégiques et du Renseignement, Youval Steinitz, a critiqué samedi le rapport du magazine américain Newsweek accusant Israël de dépasser « la ligne rouge » en matière d’espionnage sur le sol américain, affirmant qu’il s’agit d’une « tentative malicieuse et intentionnelle de saboter les relations entre Israël et les Etats-Unis ».
Whatever happened to honor among thieves? When the National Security Agency was caught eavesdropping on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone, it was considered a rude way to treat a friend. Now 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.”
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 Jewish state’s primary target: America’s industrial and technical secrets.
“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, one of several in recent months given by officials from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the State Department, the FBI and the National Counterintelligence Directorate.
The intelligence agencies didn’t go into specifics, the former aide said, 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.”
An Israeli Embassy spokesman flatly denied the charges Tuesday after initially declining to comment. Aaron Sagui told 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. » Representatives of two U.S. intelligence agencies, while acknowledging problems with Israeli spies, would not discuss classified testimony for the record. The FBI would neither confirm nor deny it briefed Congress. A State Department representative would say only that staff in its Consular and Israel Palestinian Affairs offices briefed members of Congress on visa reciprocity issues.
Of course, the U.S. spies on Israel, too. “It was the last place you wanted to go on vacation,” a former top CIA operative told Newsweek, because of heavy-handed Israeli surveillance. But the level of Israeli espionage here now has rankled U.S. counterspies.
“I don’t think anyone was surprised by these revelations,” the former aide said. “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. I mean, it shouldn’t be lost on anyone that after all the hand-wringing over [Jonathan] Pollard, it’s still going on.”
Israel and pro-Israel groups in America have long lobbied U.S. administrations to free Pollard, a former U.S. naval intelligence analyst serving a life sentence since 1987 for stealing tens of thousands of secrets for Israel. (U.S. counterintelligence officials suspect that Israel traded some of the Cold War-era information to Moscow in exchange for the emigration of Russian Jews.) After denying for over a decade that Pollard was its paid agent, Israel apologized and promised not to spy on U.S. soil again. Since then, more Israeli spies have been arrested and convicted by U.S. courts.
I.C. Smith, a former top FBI counterintelligence specialist during the Pollard affair, tells Newsweek, “In the early 1980s, dealing with the Israelis was, for those assigned that area, extremely frustrating. The Israelis were supremely confident that they had the clout, especially on the Hill, to basically get [away] with just about anything. This was the time of the Criteria Country List—later changed to the National Security Threat List—and I found it incredible that Taiwan and Vietnam, for instance, were on [it], when neither country had conducted activities that remotely approached the Pollard case, and neither had a history of, or a comparable capability to conduct, such activities.”
While all this was going on, Israel was lobbying hard to be put on the short list of countries (38 today) whose citizens don’t need visas to visit here.
Until recently, the major sticking point was the Jewish state’s discriminatory and sometimes harsh treatment of Arab-Americans and U.S. Palestinians seeking to enter Israel. It has also failed to meet other requirements for the program, such as promptly and regularly reporting lost and stolen passports, officials say—a problem all the more pressing since Iranians were found to have boarded the missing Malaysia Airlines flight with stolen passports.
“But this is the first time congressional aides have indicated that intelligence and national security concerns also are considerations in weighing Israel’s admission into the visa waiver program,” Jonathan Broder, the foreign and defense editor for CQ Roll Call, a Capitol Hill news site, wrote last month. He quoted a senior House aide as saying, “The U.S. intelligence community is concerned that adding Israel to the visa waiver program would make it easier for Israeli spies to enter the country.”
The Israelis “thought they could just snap their fingers” and get friends in Congress to legislate visa changes, a Hill aide said, instead of going through the required hoops with DHS. But facing resistance from U.S. intelligence, Israel recently signaled it’s willing to work with DHS, both Israeli and U.S. officials say. “Israel is interested in entering into the visa waiver program and is taking concrete steps to meet its conditions,” Israeli Embassy spokesman Aaron Sagui told Newsweek. “Most recently, the U.S. and Israel decided to establish a working group to advance the process,” Sagui added, saying that “Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Zeev Elkin will head the Israeli delegation.” He refused to say when the Elkin delegation was coming.
Congressional aides snorted at the announcement. “The Israelis haven’t done s**t to get themselves into the visa waiver program,” the former congressional aide said, echoing the views of two other House staffers working on the issue. “I mean, if the Israelis got themselves into this visa waiver program and if we were able to address this [intelligence community] concern—great, they’re a close ally, there are strong economic and cultural links between the two countries, it would be wonderful if more Israelis could come over here without visas. I’m sure it would spur investment and tourist dollars in our economy and so on and so forth. But what I find really funny is they haven’t done s**t to get into the program. They think that their friends in Congress can get them in, and that’s not the case. Congress can lower one or two of the barriers, but they can’t just legislate the Israelis in.”
The path to visa waivers runs through DHS and can take years to navigate. For Chile, it was three years, a government official said on a not-for-attribution basis; for Taiwan, “several.” Requirements include “enhanced law enforcement and security-related data sharing with the United States; timely reporting of lost and stolen passports; and the maintenance of high counterterrorism, law enforcement, border control, aviation and document security standards,” a DHS statement said.
Israel is not even close to meeting those standards, a congressional aide said. “You’ve got to have machine-readable passports in place—the e-passports with a data chip in them. The Israelis have only just started to issue them to diplomats and senior officials and so forth, and that probably won’t be rolled out to the rest of their population for another 10 years.”
But U.S. counterspies will get the final word. And since Israel is as likely to stop spying here as it is to give up matzo for Passover, the visa barriers are likely to stay up.
As Paul Pillar, the CIA’s former national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia, told Newsweek, old habits are hard to break: Zionists were dispatching spies to America before there even was an Israel, to gather money and materials for the cause and later the fledgling state. Key components for Israel’s nuclear bombs were clandestinely obtained here. “They’ve found creative and inventive ways,” Pillar said, to get what they want.
“If we give them free rein to send people over here, how are we going to stop that?” the former congressional aide asked. “They’re incredibly aggressive. They’re aggressive in all aspects of their relationship with the United States. Why would their intelligence relationship with us be any different?”
Jeff Stein writes SpyTalk for Newsweek from Washington, D.C.