Ethnic Profiling in the US Defense Establishment:
Questions for the US Secretary of Defense

David Zwiebel Esq. - Justice4JP Release - January 2, 2001


Jonathan Pollard was not the cause of ethnic profiling in the US intelligence community, as some have claimed. He was a victim of it. The following letter by David Zwiebel Esq., Executive VP For Government and Public Affairs for Agudath Israel, to US Secretary of Defense William Cohen, raises questions about the existence of a counterintelligence profile in the American defense establishment that targets Jews. This letter was originally published in the Fall of 2000 in Yated Ne'eman. The questions it raises remain as pressing today as when the letter was first written.


David Zwiebel, Esq.
Executive Vice President
For Government and Public Affairs

August 31, 2000

Hon. William S. Cohen
US Department of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon, Room 3E880
Washington, DC 20301-1000

Dear Mr. Secretary:

Agudath Israel of America, founded in 1922, is a broadly based Orthodox Jewish movement with chapters in 30 states and over 50 cities. We are writing you to express our concern over what appears to be a counterintelligence profile that leaves Jews within the defense establishment, especially religiously observant Jews, vulnerable to suspicion simply because of their religious identity and practice.

In 1996, a Defense Department memorandum warned American defense contractors of those with "strong ethnic ties to Israel present in the United States." That memo was subsequently repudiated. But the effects of the sentiments that motivated it appear to have lived on in certain circles - as was dramatically shown when an anonymous CIA official states on "60 Minutes" this past February that religious Jews who have intelligence clearance are suspect within the CIA because of that agency's sense that "the Israeli government has a program of recruiting Americans who are religious Jews who go to Israel often to spy on the United States."

We have been contacted about two specific individuals who claim to have been victims of inappropriate religious profiling. Both Adam Ciralsky of the CIA and David Tenenbaum of the US Army Tank Automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM) allege that they were singled out for investigation as potential spies for Israel in large part because of their religion. We do not presume to determine whether there was any substance to the suspicion that either of these individuals was spying for Israel; we do note that despite intensive investigations, no criminal charges were ever brought against them.

What concerns us, particularly after reviewing the depositions of Defense Security Service personnel and others in the Tenenbaum case (Tenenbaum v. Simonini, U.C.D.C. Civil Action No. 98-74473), is that there does seem to be evidence that his religion was one of the major factors that prompted the investigation of Mr. Tenenbaum, the suspension of his security clearance, and the FBI raid on his home on the Jewish Sabbath.

For example, Lt. Col. Simonini, Director of Intelligence/Counter-Intelligence at TACOM, prepared a memo in 1996 which called for an investigation of Tenenbaum because "(s)ubject's behavior, actions and statements fit a classic profile that warrant and create security concerns; at best - an unwilling accomplice. At worst - he may be knowingly assisting a foreign government, which is known to exploit nationalistic and religious tendencies." FBI Special Agent James Gugino, in a 1997 teletype to the Director of the FBI following a polygraph examination of Tenenbaum by a Mr. Snyder, stated that "It is the opinion...(of) Snyder that because of his (Tenenbaum's) devout religious beliefs and his strong affinity to Israel, Tenenbaum would have provided restricted information to the Israelis... (Tenenbaum) makes his life's decisions based on his deep rooted beliefs in his Jewish faith." In his deposition, Richard E. McClelland, Director of Research at TACOM, stated explicitly that Tenenbaum was targeted for investigation because of his religion:

"Q: Has any other similarly situated employee been subjected to this type of process (of investigation) that Mr. Tenenbaum was?

A: To my knowledge, no.

Q: Why David Tenenbaum, why was he as far as you understand ...subjected to this clandestine investigation? ... Do you think the fact that he is Jewish and spoke Hebrew on base and wears a yarmulke on base was that a factor in the thinking of the people who were investigating him and/or alleging that he was doing something improper with the Israelis?

A: Yes ...

Q: (D)o you believe any of this would have happened to David, the investigation, the clandestine investigation we referred to earlier, if he had not been Jewish?

A: I believe that none of this would have happened.

Q: If he had not been Jewish?

A: Yes."

In the course of Mr. McClelland's deposition, his lawyer - William Woodard of the US Attorney's Office - objected numerous times to all questions regarding the possible existence of a counterintelligence profile that targets Jews in government and in the defense establishment. Mr. Woodard maintained that such information is classified and could not be placed on the record. While we appreciate that it is impossible to draw any definitive conclusions from Mr. Woodard's lawyering tactics, one can only wonder why, if no such profile exists, he would have objected so strenuously to this line of inquiry.

We are troubled by the notion that loyal and dedicated American Jews within the defense community may be subject to suspicion because of their religious beliefs and observances. We are particularly alarmed that there may exist a "counterintelligence profile" that specifically singles out religiously observant Jews for investigation by the Defense Security Service, the FBI, and other intelligence agencies.

We expressed our concerns to CIA Director George Tenet in the aftermath of the 60 Minutes expose, and enclose our exchange of correspondence. We would appreciate your clarifying the Defense Department's position in this matter. I am also taking the liberty of sharing this letter with the officials listed below, to alert them to our concern about this matter and to solicit their personal follow up as well.

David Zwiebel


cc: Hon. Bill Clinton
Hon. Al Gore
Hon. George Tenet
Hon. John W. Warner, Chair, Senate Committee on Armed Services
Hon. Carl Levin, Ranking Minority Member, Senate Committee on Armed Services
Hon. Floyd D. Spence, Chair, House Committee on Armed Services
Hon. Ike Skelton, Ranking Minority Member, House Committee on Armed Services

  • See Also articles on both Tenebaum and Ciralsky on the Adam Ciralsky Page