If any one ever needed any justification for FBI spying on the official Israeli governmental presence in this country (diplomats and covert agents included) they need look no farther than today’s news that a former senior White House scientist, spied on behalf of Israel’s major aerospace defense contractor (the Israeli equivalent of Boeing or Martin Marietta), earning several hundred thousand dollars in the process:
A former senior government scientist who held the highest security clearances pleaded guilty to espionage on Wednesday and agreed to a 13-year prison term for selling top-secret information on military satellites and other technology to an F.B.I. agent posing as an Israeli spy.
The scientist, Stewart D. Nozette, 54, who worked at the White House in 1989-90 and helped lead the search for water on the moon, was not charged with spying for Israel.
But Dr. Nozette consulted for a state-owned Israeli company, identified in the Israeli news media as Israel Aerospace Industries, from 1998 to 2008. The company paid him a total of $225,000 for answering technical questions it posed monthly, according to court documents.
The report calls Nozette one of the highest ranking U.S. scientists ever to be caught trying to spy for a foreign power. And it certainly is no accident that the foreign power in this case is Israel, since an internal CIA survey found Israel’s intelligence operations in this country to be third most intrusive behind Russia’s and China’s. That’s some pretty august company if you ask me.
Let those Israelis beating their breast asking “is this the way allies treat each other” stop the wailing and gnashing of teeth. The type of surveillance operation in which Shamai Leibowitz worked in the FBI is critical in order to stop precisely this sort of betrayal of U.S. interests. And lest anyone argue there is a qualitative difference between the military secrets stolen by the Israelis and the activities uncovered by Leibowitz’ leaked material–there is. But the difference is a matter of degrees and not of magnitude.
Giving Israel our secret satellite technology is certainly a severe breach, but an attack on Iran, facilitated to some degree by Israel’s diplomatic community is equally serious if not more so.
Another nugget Scott Shane included in his report is this information which leads one to believe that there is almost no difference between Israeli defense companies and Israeli intelligence:
In September 2009, the undercover F.B.I. agent called Dr. Nozette and arranged to meet him at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, where the agent said he worked for the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency. Dr. Nozette replied, “Good. Happy to be of assistance,” according to the statement of facts. The scientist told the agent, “I thought I was working for you already.”
UPDATE: A reader, Shmuel pointed out a nuance I missed in my original post. Nozette was trying to spy for Israel, but actually he was caught by a counter-intelligence sting before he did so. However, it is also noted in the Times report that Nozette already served as a paid consultant to Israeli Aerospace Industries. Apparently the work he did for them was, in his mind, little different that what he expected to do for the “Mossad” agent who approached. So one has to ask whether Nozette was already betraying U.S. secrets even before he was caught.