NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO Broadcast on the Adam Ciralsky Case
SHOW: Morning Edition
DATE: April 9, 1999
BOB EDWARDS, host:
This is NPR's MORNING EDITION. I'm Bob Edwards.
At a time when the nation is focused on national security, a scandal is
among intelligence agents involving charges of systematic anti-Semitism
highest levels. NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg reports.
NINA TOTENBERG reporting:
Three years ago, 24-year-old Adam Ciralsky was a wunderkind of the
security establishment. Promoted by his one-time bosses in the
won a coveted position in the CIA honors program, and having just
from law school, he went to work in the general counsel's office, where
singled out with a cash award for his good work. But within months, he
himself accused of a dual loyalty to the state of Israel and a lack of
in disclosing his contacts with foreign nationals. Today Ciralsky is
technically employed by the CIA, so he can't talk, but he's on leave
pay and has not been permitted to set foot in the agency for 18 months.
Meanwhile, his once shining prospects of a career in national security
ruins, and later this month, he expects to file a lawsuit charging the
a pattern of rank anti-Semitism against its Jewish employees and Jewish
employees in other agencies screened by the CIA for security clearance.
Ciralsky's lawyer is Neal Sher, the one-time head of the Justice
Nazi hunting section. He says that what he's learned in the last two
about the CIA's disparate treatment of religious Jews and security
has, quote, "stood my hair on end."
Mr. NEAL SHER (Attorney): In the course of our dealing with Adam, we, I
have come across a much more pervasive and pernicious pattern of conduct
could only be described as blatant anti-Semitism, and now it's been
TOTENBERG: Indeed, the CIA security apparatus, presided over in part now
FBI, has produced a number of cases similar to Ciralsky's. Item: a
State Department employee promoted to the National Security Council is
because he's told he failed a polygraph question about contacts with
The man's lawyer, a former Reagan administration Defense Department
who is not Jewish, says he's amazed at what he calls a clearly different
to evaluate Jews. Item: an FBI counterintelligence agent wins a
settlement and a lifetime annuity for being suspended after a trip to
Jonathan Weisgold(ph) is her lawyer.
Mr. JONATHAN WEISGOLD (Attorney): She found the vacation in a travel
She told her superiors she went over there, was asked if she wanted to
with a Mossad agent, said, `Thank you, no.' When she came back, she
that contact and then she was found to be lacking in candor and it
from there. It was quite clear that her Jewishness was a factor. She
told, `We do not want this to be another Jonathan Pollard case.'
TOTENBERG: And there are more cases like this. In the Ciralsky case,
own internal documents obtained by NPR indicate that the agency had been
suspicious of Ciralsky from the time of his arrival at CIA. The
centered on his Jewish background and are illustrated in a memorandum
to the chief of the Middle East counterintelligence group from her
begins, quote, "I'd like to know if he admits his family had actual
with right-wing politicians like Prime Minister Netanyahu. If not
then maybe his family has donated money to Israeli government causes.
experience with rich Jewish friends from college, I would fully expect
wealthy daddy to support Israeli political or social causes in some form
other, perhaps through the United Jewish Appeal." Lawyer Neal Sher
Mr. SHER: If contributing to the UJA and Israel bonds made one
it questioned your loyalty, then the vast majority of the Jewish
the United States would be under suspicion. If there's evidence that
violated the laws, they ought to take action against them. But there's
TOTENBERG: Adam Ciralsky's troubles at the CIA began the week he got
even though he didn't know it at the time. He'd passed an entry
test, but as he later learned, his name had been flagged for, quote,
ethnic ties," and his file sent to the counter espionage section.
CIA summary of his background is illustrative. It lists his proficiency
Hebrew, but not Spanish, his trips to Israel, but not China, his Judaic
minor in college, but not his international affairs major. Ciralsky did
learn of the CIA's suspicions until August of 1997, shortly before he
was to be
rotated to the National Security Council.
On August 19th, he was ordered to report for a polygraph. During a
seven-and-a-half-hour interrogation, Ciralsky was accused of deception,
being a spy, a dupe and a terrorist. In September, he was interrogated
chief of the Middle East section, who'd received the wealthy Jewish
beforehand. He was asked why he'd failed to report that when he'd gone
high school trip to Israel at age 15, the trip's chaperone was Israeli
he failed to disclose that his college Hebrew teacher was Israeli.
answered that he'd not seen either of these individuals for years and
under CIA regulations, he was only supposed to report close or
Many more interrogations followed, during which he was asked,
example, about his connections to his great-grandfather's first cousin,
Weizmann, who was the first president of Israel.
But both Weizmann and
great-grandfather died long before Ciralsky was born. Indeed,
family has lived in the United States since the 1860s. His
great-great-grandfather fought in the Civil War. But now Adam Ciralsky,
a Milwaukee surgeon, was under suspicion at the CIA.
As the investigation progressed, agency documents show that CIA director
Tenet was kept informed by special memos. Finally, Ciralsky was ordered
take another polygraph. Once again, he was told he'd flunked, and his
believe that the internal CIA memos show the test was rigged.
memorandum, an unidentified official writes, quote, "Tenet," meaning the
director, "says this guy is out of here. Subject is scheduled for a
Once that's over, it looks like we'll be waving goodbye to our friend."
thereafter, Ciralsky's lawyers had him take a polygraph administered by
former chief of the FBI polygraph lab, a man who'd trained CIA
Mr. SHER: And it came out as clean as could be. He passed it
There were no problems whatsoever.
TOTENBERG: Ciralsky's lawyer, Neal Sher, then started talking to
Jewish-Americans who, in turn, made contact with Vice President Gore's
Sher also wrote to the president's national security adviser Sandy
got no answer.
White House sources say that they were told by the CIA that suspicion
raised about Ciralsky's contacts by another agency, but one senior
source not in the CIA has told NPR that the information about Ciralsky
considered not credible, even by the FBI.
Said this source,
folks are out of control, and the higher-ups are unwilling to take them
fact, CIA higher-ups, not long ago, proposed settling the Ciralsky case
substantial sum if, among other things, Ciralsky agreed to take a
administered by an independent tester who would not be briefed in
either side. Lawyer Neal Sher.
Mr. SHER: The CIA actually reneged on a written deal.
TOTENBERG: Bill Harlow, a spokesman for the CIA, denies any wrongdoing
agency, but says he cannot comment on the specifics of the case.
Mr. BILL HARLOW (CIA Spokesman): We find anti-Semitism repugnant and
reprehensible, and the circumstances that Mr. Ciralsky finds himself in
have nothing to do with anti-Semitism.
TOTENBERG: Whether or not Adam Ciralsky wins his lawsuit, the effect
likely to have on the agency is profound. Michael Sirfrino(ph) is a
intelligence officer who now serves as general counsel for the Ballistic
Missile Defense Program at the Pentagon. Adam Ciralsky worked for him
and it was Sirfrino who recommended him to the CIA. The problem
now, says Sirfrino, is that he cannot prove a negative. He can't prove
hasn't done anything wrong.
Mr. MICHAEL SIRFRINO (Pentagon Employee): I think they've--I think Adam
probably been misled, at best, and there could even have been worse that
TOTENBERG: Would you recommend anybody over there now?
Mr. SIRFRINO: Absolutely not. I think they have an internal problem.
it's a cultural problem. And I think they need to fix it if they're
gonna--welfare of the American public.
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