CIA Ripped On Recruiting Charges
NY Jewish Week - February 11, 2000 - Eric J. Greenberg
Jewish leaders call on director to disavow allegations that Israel enlists Jews to spy on U.S. Spies
of every different nationality and ethnic group have been caught and arrested in the U.S. - why are Israel and the Jewish Community the only ones to be singled out for such accusations?
Charges by a mysterious CIA official that Israel recruits religious
Jews to spy on the United States has sparked outrage from several
leaders and a call for a public CIA response.
The allegations were aired Sunday night on the CBS news show "60
focusing on the case of Adam Ciralsky, a former CIA attorney
who claims he
was fired because of his ethnicity.
In the report, correspondent Leslie Stahl said "a high-level CIA
that "the Israeli government has a program of recruiting Americans
religious Jews" to spy on America.
Asked by Stahl if that means "any religious Jew who has any kind
intelligence clearance is now suspect," the man described as
"Mr. X" replied: "I
suspect that's probably true."
Agudath Israel of America, which represents Orthodox Jews, is
calling on the
CIA "to issue at its very highest levels a clear and unqualified
rejection of the
"The harm caused by this statement is incalculable," Agudah executive
president for government public affairs David Zwiebel wrote in
a letter sent
Tuesday night to CIA director George Tenet.
"It not only reflects the classic anti-Semitic canard of dual
stereotype of Jew as untrustworthy outsider, it fosters that
stereotype. And when those singled out for suspicion are [readily
religious Jews ... the danger of harmful fallout is compounded
Zwiebel called on Tenet to "publicly disassociate yourself personally,
CIA as an entity, from this official's statement.
"Your silence at this time will be understood as an unmistakable
of this outrageous assertion that has been broadcast across the
Asked to respond to Agudah's request, a CIA spokesman told The
Week the agency would not be commenting at all about the "60
However, Jewish leaders said the report raises questions about
the CIA and its
Jewish employees, and also about Mr. X.
"I want to know the identity of this man, where does he get his
from, and how serious [the alleged Israel spy operation] is,"
Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League.
"What I find curious about it is that such a serious charge would
be made by
some functionary hiding his identity," he said.
But Foxman, whose agency was contracted by the CIA last year to
ongoing ethnic sensitivity training to agency personnel, said
behavior exists in America's intelligence community.
"Look, the intelligence community comes together every time the
is raised in an almost unbelievable manner," he said, referring
to convicted spy
Jonathan Pollard, a former U.S. Naval intelligence employee serving
sentence for spying for Israel. "From time to time you see evidence
there is this
paranoia about Jews and Israel."
Neal Sher, the attorney for Ciralsky, went further, saying that
"there's no doubt
in my mind there are elements in the CIA where anti-Semitism
runs deep, and
that there are people there who are convinced that Israel is
engaged in trying
to recruit American Jews."
But Sher said he doesn't believe the allegations. "These are the
[CIA officials] who thought the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade was
ammunitions depot," he said, referring to the mistaken U.S. bombing
In Israel, a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Ehud Barak refused
on the recruitment allegations. An Israeli government spokesman
in the U.S.
declined to comment, saying that "our government does not respond
Another Israeli official said that Israeli was burned in the Pollard
affair and is
unlikely to repeat that mistake by trying to recruit amateurs
to spy on its best
Several Jewish activists familiar with the major defense and intelligence
agencies said there is a pattern of anti-Semitism inside the
CIA, but also
argued that the agency's current leadership has taken significant
"It's there, but not necessarily on a day-to-day basis," one activist
with ties to
the intelligence establishment said after the Ciralsky story
surfaced last year.
"There is a tendency to believe American Jews will put Israel
legitimate for these agencies to wonder how far that nationalist
side of our
interest goes. It's not legitimate to make sweeping judgments
about Jews being
unreliable or disloyal."
Indeed, Mr. X told "60 Minutes" that he believes the CIA is overreacting
actions against Jewish employees. He said "so-called evidence"
against a number of Jewish individuals who supposedly are spying
for Israel is
"very, very flimsy" and that some people have been fired or had
clearances revoked based on suspicion and without solid evidence.
However, the anonymous official told Stahl that the Israeli recruiting
"We believe that there have been numerous documented instances
the Israelis have successfully recruited U.S. persons to spy
for them," Mr. X
One source told The Jewish Week that other employees and potential
employees - including Asian Americans - are not scrutinized as
Jews. In the wake of recent revelations of Chinese spying, some
regretting that laxity.
Meanwhile Sher said Ciralsky, a 28-year-old Milwaukee native,
intends to sue
the CIA for firing him and stripping him of his security privileges
"because of his
actions as a Jew."
The CIA counters it fired Ciralsky after he failed two polygraph
showed "a lack of candor" about possible links with Israeli intelligence.
In a statement, the CIA said Tenet remains confident that anti-Semitism
not a factor in the agency's dealings with Ciralsky. It also
said that Tenet will
not tolerate anti-Semitism or any other form of discrimination
at the agency.
Excerpts of 60 Minutes Interview of Adam Ciralsky - Part I
Excerpts of 60 Minutes Interview of Adam Ciralsky - Part II
Return to Ciralksy page