Tenenbaum's Case Resurfaces

The Jewish Press (NY) - Editorial May 14, 1999

As the Chinagate story unfolded in all its gory detail several weeks ago, we suggested that the Chinagate story had "legs" and would ultimately reveal a troubling and perhaps illegal connection between White House decision-making and Chinese contributions to President Clinton's 1996 reelection effort.

While we are certainly not suggesting that the President or his staff gave secrets away in return for campaign contributions, we continue to believe that there may have been decisions to go slow in following up on charges of espio- nage in order to keep investigators as far as possible from campaign contributors so as not to uncover espionage facilitating access that was indeed for sale. Indeed, just such suspicions will be the subject of hearings by Senate and House committees in the next few months'

In the past we have compared the cavalier attitude in the U.S.. intelligence community towards the lackadaisical official pursuit of suspicions that Los Alamos scientist Won Lee transferred missile technology secrets to China with the frenzied opposition to President Clinton's declared intention to free Jonathan Pollard. Threats to resign, from CIA Director George Tenant on down, were issued and we continue to believe that the hysteria was driven 'I'n large part by the fact that Israel was the beneficiary of Pollard's espionage. Yet China has missiles pointed at us even as we speak.

This was all brought home to us several weeks ago when, following news reports of a charge of religious discrimination being filed against the CIA by a Jewish employee, there was a media rehashing of the multi million dollar lawsuit filed by David Tenenbaum against the United States Department of the Army.

Tenenbaum, it will be recalled, was a civilian engineer working for the United States Army who came under suspicion of spying for Israel but was completely exonerated. The rub is that the suspicion was fueled, he says, because he was an Orthodox Jew. Indeed, a since repudiated Army document entitled "Ethnic Allies Memorandum" actually stated that Israel has "a ready-made spy network" in the United States because of the large numbers of practicing Jews, people who speak Hebrew, and regular travelers to Israel who live here.

From the time Tenenbaum came under suspicion, he was suspended from his job and subjected to constant surveillance. A half-dozen cars constantly passed back and forth in front of his home. He was followed everywhere he went - even to and from synagogue on the Sabbath. His wife and children were similarly monitored. Moreover, even though he has now been exonerated - in addition to other factors, he easily passed a lie detector test - and reinstated, his security clearance has been lifted and he is forbidden to deal with anything having to do with Israel!

In ordinary circumstances we would, of course, applaud our government's zealousness in addressing possible espionage. Frankly, we would even welcome erring on the side of caution. What concerns us, however, is the notion that Jews and Israel present a special case. We at The Jewish Press take a back seat to no one in our support for the Jewish State of Israel. Yet the very idea that we should be suspected of harboring a proclivity to sell out our country in the interests of Israel is outrageous and deeply insulting.

There is something very wrong afoot. There seems to be a mindset in Washington officialdom that can easily lead to tragic consequences. The elder members of our community have often spoken of a golden era in Europe prior to the Holocaust. It is time for Washington, from President Clinton on down, to introspect and contemplate where America, G-d forbid, may be headed. We fervently hope our President is sensitive to what is lurking under the surface of what may be honest policy differences and to that which can be inadvertently unleashed.

For further information see: