U.S. Memo On Israel Cited Its Spy Aims

The New York Times - February 3, 1996 - Tim Weiner

Washington, January 29 - A Defense Department employee sent a confidential memorandum to American military contractors last month warning that Israel would try to spy on them and use the religious affinities of their Jewish employees to obtain secret information.

The letter which described Israel as a "non-traditional adversary" in terms of espionage, was withdrawn by the Pentagon later in the month. Tonight Pentagon spokesman, Kenneth Bacon said the letter was "unfortunate, unofficial and unauthorized."

Mr. Bacon said the warning which does not represent the Defense Department policy, was based on information gleaned from newspapers, magazines, and unclassified material by a low-ranking employee of the Defense Investigative Service.

Despite the withdrawal of the warning, the Director of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai Brith, Abraham H. Foxman, urged the Defense Department to "immediately initiate an internal investigation into the matter so as to reprimand those responsible and prevent similar occurrence in the future.

"I find the memorandum a matter of serious concern," Mr. Foxman said in a letter to Defense Secretary William J. Perry. "This is a distressing charge that impugns American Jews and borders on anti-Semitism."

The confidential warning to military contractors was sent in December, the Washington Post reported in its Tuesday issue. It was forwarded last week to the Anti-Defamation League by a military contractor who took offense at it. Mr. Foxman sent a copy of it to Mr. Perry on Thursday.

Today, Emmett Paige, the assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence, sent a letter to Mr. Foxman saying the warning had no basis in policy. "I want to stress that the content of this document does not reflect the official position of the Defense Department," he said.

He continued, "While we object to the document in general, singling out ethnicity as a matter of counterintelligence vulnerability is particularly repugnant to the Department."

Among the Defense Investigative Service's responsibilities is alerting military contractors to potential threats of foreign espionage. But such warnings are usually based on analyses of intelligence information by the United States spy services. In this case, "the D.I.S. employee sent contractors a notice based on what he picked up by reading the open press," Mr. Bacon said. "It was based on his views, his own worries."

The question of spying is a particularly sensitive issue among Americans and Israelis. In 1985, an American citizen working for Israeli Intelligence, Jonathan Pollard, was arrested on espionage charges. He is serving a life sentence. Since then, no formal accusation of spying has been leveled at Israel by the United States.

See Also:
  • Defense Memo Warned of Israeli Spying
  • Shiraz on the Potomac