There is strong evidence Israeli intelligence operatives engaged in clandestine dealings on American soil and almost certainly had advance knowledge of the impending terrorist attacks on Sept. 11. Israel, however, did not report this information to the American authorities.
A sudden spate of news stories in the mainstream media over a three-day period cast new light on this story that first reached a national audience in the Dec. 17 issue of American Free Press which actually went to press on Dec. 7, 2001.
At that time, AFP noted that buried within a story in The Washington Post on Nov. 23 was the little-known fact that a number of Israeli nationals taken into custody by federal authorities after the Sept. 11 tragedy were suspected of having material knowledge relative to the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
Then, on Dec. 12, five days after the AFP story was published, Carl Cameron of Brit Hume’s Special Report on Fox News, broke his report on a wide-ranging Israeli espionage ring uncovered on U.S. soil.
Cameron reported that there was evidence that those Israeli agents were watching the 9-11 terrorists prior to the Sept. 11 tragedy. On Dec. 24, AFP summarized Cameron’s report in which he stated in part:
There is no indication the Israelis were involved in the Sept. 11 attacks, but investigators suspect that they may have gathered intelligence about the attacks in advance and not shared it. A highly-placed investigator told Fox News there are “tie-ins,” but when asked for details flatly refused to describe them. “Evidence linking these Israelis to 9-11 is classified. I cannot tell you about evidence that has been gathered. It is classified information.”
During the segment, host Brit Hume asked Cameron: “What about this question of advanced knowledge of what was going to happen on 9-11? How clear are investigators that some Israeli agents may have known something?”
Cameron responded: “It’s very explosive information, obviously, and there’s a great deal of evidence that they say they have collected. None of it necessarily conclusive. It’s more when they put it all together. A bigger question, they say, is “How could they not have known?” [That is] almost a direct quote [from the investigators].”
The Fox report indicated that even prior to Sept. 11 as many as 140 other Israelis had been detained or arrested in what was described by reporter Cameron as “a secretive and sprawling investigation into suspected espionage by Israelis in the United States.” According to Cameron:
Investigators are focusing part of their efforts on Israelis who said they are art students from the University of Jerusalem or Bezalel Academy and repeatedly made contact with U.S. government personnel by saying they wanted to sell cheap art or handiwork.
Documents say they “targeted” and penetrated military bases, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, dozens of government facilities and even secret offices and unlisted private homes of law enforcement and intelligence personnel.
After Fox made this amazing report, there was an angry response from the Israeli lobby in America. The Dec. 21 issue of the New York-based Forward reported that Fox and Cameron were “under fire.”
Whatever the case, Fox News pulled the transcriptions of Cameron’s broadcast reports off its Internet web site, saying that “this story no longer exists,” even though, at the time, Cameron had told Forward that he continued to stand behind his story. It appeared as though Cameron’s story was destined for the Memory Hole, but for reports about it that had appeared in AFP and on the Internet.
However, on March 4, the story first pioneered by AFP and Fox News came back to life thanks to the famous French daily, Le Monde which hit the streets with a story charging that “a vast Israeli espionage network operating on American territory has been broken up,” describing the network of “Israeli art students” that Fox had first reported.
Le Monde’s story relied largely on reporting an independent investigation conducted by the Paris-based Intelligence Online (an Internet-based newsletter), which, in turn, had obviously been directed by the Fox report and the sources made available to Fox.
The story developed by Intelligence Online, according to Le Monde, charged quite specifically that Israel had withheld information that it had developed, through its spying operations in the United States, about the impending Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
LeMonde cited transcriptions of the previous work by Carl Cameron on Fox and pointed out how Fox itself refused to cooperate with Le Monde, saying that it was “a problem,” but that Fox refused to be specific.
According to Intelligence Online, the suspects in the Israeli spying operation were all between 22 and 30 and had recently completed their Israeli military service. Six of the suspected spies had used portable telephones bought by a former Israeli vice consul in the United States. Many of the suspects were also linked to Israeli information technology companies.
Le Monde also noted that Intelligence Online had received a copy of a 61-page report prepared by an officer of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and others from the Immigration and Naturalization Service. (A spokesman for the DEA, Will Glaspy, confirmed to Le Monde that the DEA “holds a copy” of that report.)
The report cited by Le Monde specifically pointed out that one-third of the suspected Israeli spies had been based in Florida, and at least five of them were on site in Hollywood, Fla., where accused Sept. 11 hijacker ringleader Muhammad Atta and four of his purported accomplices also lived.
The United States has deported 120 young Israelis posing as “art students” for visa violations. However, some officials do suspect them of spying.
On March 5, Reuters, the sometimes quite independent press service, carried a report describing Le Monde’s article (even including the allegation of Israeli foreknowledge of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks). Reuters, however, cited an un-named FBI spokesman who called it a “bogus story,” saying—despite all the evidence to the contrary—that “there wasn’t a spy ring.”
On March 6, the Associated Press ran its own version (which appeared in some newspapers across the country) and reported that there had been allegations that so-called Israeli “art students” deported from the United States were “suspected” of spying.
AP’s report, however, did not mention the implication that this spy ring had advance knowledge relating to the activities of the 9-11 terrorists.
On March 6 Washington Post staff writers John Mintz and Dan Eggen also wrote a story about the affair, but their version had a notably different spin.
The Post story was headlined “Reports of Israeli spy ring dismissed” and claimed that “a wide array of U.S. officials” had dismissed the reports that the U.S. government had broken up “an Israeli espionage ring that consisted of young Israelis attempting to penetrate U.S. agencies by selling artwork in federal buildings.”
Mintz and Eggen reported that Attorney General Ashcroft’s spokeswoman at the Justice Department, Susan Dryden, described the story as “an urban myth that has been circulating for months.” She added: “The department has no information at this time to substantiate these widespread reports about Israeli art students involved in espionage.”
The two Post writers suggest that the allegations appear to have been circulated in a memo written (and leaked) by a single “disgruntled” employee of the DEA who, Mintz and Eggen say, is “angry” that FBI and CIA sources have rejected what the Post duo dismissively calls his “theories.”
The memo is presumably the same one that Intelligence Online used in as partial basis for its report.
So while the Post admits that the DEA memo does exist, the Post is trying to dismiss its reliability by charging that “a single employee” who is “disgruntled” and “angry” is its source.
However, even as it is trying to suggest that a DEA loner was behind the charges, the Post article does acknowledge in its closing paragraph:
DEA spokesman Thomas Hinojosa said that multiple reports of suspicious activity on the part of young Israelis had come into the agency’s Washington headquarters from agents in the fields. The reports were summarized in a draft memo last year, but Hinojosa said he did not have a copy and could not vouch for the accuracy of media reports describing its contents.
What is perhaps the most intriguing twist about the Post story is that co-author Mintz is the Post staffer who wrote in the Post on Nov. 23 that among a total of some 60 young Israeli Jews picked up by the FBI in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, there was at least a handful being held on suspicion of having material knowledge about the attacks themselves.
At that time Mintz pointed out that while most of the Israelis arrested and detained since Sept. 11 were held on immigration charges and not suspected of any involvement in terrorism, there were exceptions. According to Mintz’s previous Post article (published on Nov. 23):
In several cases, such as those in Cleveland and St. Louis, INS officials testified in court hearings that they were “of special interest to the government,” a term that federal agents have used in many of the hundreds of cases involving mostly Muslim Arab men who have been detained around the country since the terrorist attacks.
An INS official who requested anonymity said the agency will not comment on the Israelis. He said the use of the term “special interest” means the case in question is “related to the investigation of Sept. 11.”
What Mintz did not say in his more recent Post article of March 6 was that some of these same Israelis that he was writing about on Nov. 23 have been implicated in the spy ring that his most recent article suggests is “an urban myth.”
Now, Mintz’s co-author, Dan Eggen, has revealed a new detail about yet another Israeli official to the events of 9-11. It turns out that another “former” Israeli operative was actually traveling on one of the ill-fated Sept. 11 flights alongside the Arab hijackers. (See related story on page 4.)
United Press International has yet to cover the developments in the Israeli spy ring story, which might be explained by the fact that its chief international correspondent, Eli Lake, is a devotee of Israel who previously worked for Forward, the Jewish community newspaper which bragged on Dec. 21 how the Fox story had been buried by other media.