December 21, 2001
You really have to hand it to the Israelis: they are nothing if not blatant. Their response to Fox News reporter Carl Cameron's devastating exposé of Israel's massive spy operation in the US can hardly be repeated with a straight face. Mark Regev, a spokesman at the Israeli embassy in Washington is quoted by the Jerusalem Post as saying:
"The report on Fox News contains no quoted source, it has in no way demonstrated anything more than anonymous innuendo, and should be regarded accordingly. Israel does not spy on the United States of America."
Gee, Mark, does the name Jonathan Pollard ring a bell?
Naturally, the law enforcement sources who utilized Cameron's investigation to voice their concerns didn't dare allow their names to be used: as Cameron related in his report, any question regarding the possibility of Israeli spying in the US is "career suicide" for those who dare raise it. Question: is it also career suicide for journalists to raise it?
I have seen a few news items reporting on the Cameron exposé, but, given the implications and scope of what we're talking about here, the answer is, apparently, yes. For Cameron and Fox News are not merely saying that the Israelis have been conducting a "sprawling" spy operation in the US, involving the massive penetration of our communications systems and government agencies. As Cameron so diplomatically put it in the first segment of his four-part investigation:
"There is no indication that the Israelis were involved in the 9-11 attacks, but investigators suspect that the Israelis may have gathered intelligence about the attacks in advance, and not shared it."
In other words: Israel's passive complicity made the worst terrorist attack in American history possible. One would think that the sheer enormity of such a charge would provoke a storm of outrage from Israel's many defenders in the media: the columnists, the think-tankers, the publicists who dote on Ariel Sharon's every word. But, no: instead, there is an ominous, one might almost say a guilty silence.
It's frightening, really, when you think about it. Here, after all, is a reporter's dream: a heretofore-undiscovered angle on the biggest story of our time. Yet no one will touch it. Why? It couldn't be because you'd need an army of researchers: you don't. All that's necessary is internet access, and, of course, the miracle of Google: anyone can go to google.com and type in the appropriate words and phrases, such as "Israelis detained," or, better yet, "Israeli art students" along with the word "detained." Go ahead: do it, and see what happens….
Okay, so you did it and came up with a whole slew of news stories, published mostly in local newspapers, telling different variations on a single, very bizarre story: In locations as diverse as Dallas, Saint Louis, Kansas, Atlanta, New York, and Findley, Ohio, groups of young people describing themselves as Israeli art students suddenly descended on federal office buildings and no less than 36 Department of Defense facilities. They seemed particularly active in the state of Texas: in Dallas, one "student" was found wandering the halls of a federal facility with a floor plan in his hands. Say, what?
Starting in the third week of January, reports began to pour in to the National Counterintelligence Center (NCC) about "suspicious visitors to federal facilities." The NCC's bimonthly report for March 2001 states:
"In the past six weeks, employees in federal office buildings located throughout the United States have reported suspicious activities connected with individuals representing themselves as foreign students selling or delivering artwork. Employees have observed both males and females attempting to bypass facility security and enter federal buildings."
The NCC described these people -- supposedly working for an outfit known as "Universal Art, Inc." -- as "aggressive" in attempting to gain access to federal facilities, and reported that two had been arrested for having counterfeit work visas and green cards. Then this stunner: "These individuals have also gone to the private residences of senior federal officials under the guise of selling art." Now wait just a friggin' minute, dude stop right there!
Okay, so we're talking about some nine months before The Day, and mysterious "art students" are following high government officials home that is, when they aren't trying to break in to Defense Department facilities, staking out DEA offices, and hanging around the federal prosecutor's office in Dallas. We've already had numerous terrorist scares, at this point: remember the New Year's hysteria, and there were all those frantic warnings by various "anti-terrorist" commissions and study groups. The NCC report posits the existence of two groups of "art students":
"One group has an apparently legitimate money-making goal while the second, perhaps a non-Israeli group, may have ties to a Middle Eastern Islamic fundamentalist group."
So, this was the first ominous sign of the terrorist onslaught to come or was it? The NCC's speculation that these "art students" were Bin Laden's boys turns out not to have been correct. They were Israelis, alright, except for a few Latin Americans. Not only did they carry forged immigration papers, in some cases, but also at least one we know about failed a polygraph test when he denied spying for Israel.
With some 140 picked up before 9/11, and some 60-plus afterward, we have no idea how many of these "art students" were sent back to Israel to pursue their "studies." All we know is that those let go were kept for months, and others according to Fox News, those identified as Israeli agents are still in custody, perhaps sharing a nice cozy cell with detainees from Arab countries. I'm sure they have a lot to talk about….
The Arab detainees, as we have seen, have been the subjects of a national controversy between civil libertarians and the Bush administration. We have John Ashcroft denouncing those who would spread the "false fear" of a police state as "aiding the terrorists," while on the other hand Arab-Americans and the ACLU are rallying opposition to the round-up. But when it comes to the Israeli detainees, there is no controversy, virtually no mention of it in the national media, no nothing. Jewish groups are not rallying to the defense of these poor defenseless "art students," held without bail and without lawyers, for the most part, in very uncomfortable and worrisome circumstances. Doesn't anybody find this odd?
What's significant about this story is, first, that it amounts to the biggest spy operation in the US since the days of the Cold War, and, secondly, that it provides some context for understanding the mystery of 9/11. To most of us, that horrific event was a bolt out of the blue, with no prelude, no precedent, and no way to anticipate that the best days of our lives could turn into the worst. But the view from inside the US Government must have looked a whole lot different, i.e. far more threatening. Yet the threat seemed to be coming, not from Bin Laden, but incredibly from the Israelis, who, not content with having gained access to our phone system and federal wiretaps, were penetrating American military and government targets. Law enforcement authorities were in the midst of a massive crackdown on the Israelis, when, suddenly, they were hit from the other direction.
We are being kept in the dark about so many things, these days, but this, it seems, is too important to be kept secret for long. If we are going to be asked to give up our liberties, our peace of mind, and even our lives in an apparently eternal "war on terrorism," then Americans at least have a right to know who their enemies are. Yes, we know the evil Bin Laden is responsible for the murder of 3000 innocent people but we still don't know how they managed to pull off such a well-organized and spectacular display of murderous skill, unassisted by any state sponsor.
Much has been said but nothing proved about the alleged role of Iraq in all this. But to anyone who has seen or read through parts one, two, three and four of the Fox News investigative report, it seems clear that the most active state intelligence agency in the US prior to the twin towers attack was not the Iraqis, but the Mossad. Carl Cameron informs us that a North Carolina Israeli spy coven is suspected of renting an apartment in California "to spy on a group of Arabs who the United States is also investigating for links to terrorism." What were they doing and, most importantly, what did they know about the planning and execution of the 9/11 atrocity?
In the months preceding 9/11, a secret war was being waged on American soil, a silent struggle from coast to coast not an undercover battle between us and Muslim terrorists, but one pitting US law enforcement agencies against one of our closest allies. Make of that what you will. For until the US government comes clean, and Congress investigates, we'll never even have a chance to start asking the right questions.
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