Update: The spies who came in from the art sale

Update: The spies who came in from the art sale

Creative Loafing has obtained a report detailing alleged Israeli spy

activity in the United States.



 Editor's note: Portions of the report mentioned in this article can be

found at http://atlanta.creativeloafing.com/2002-03-20/news_dea.pdf.

A major international espionage saga is unfolding across the United

States, with some of its roots right here in the Atlanta area. It's 


pretty hush-hush so far, largely because the implications could be a 


embarrassment for the government.

The spy story is even more touchy because it isn't Saddam, Fidel, Osama 


even what passes nowadays for the KGB spying on America -- but our

"friend" in the war against "evil," Israel.

The basis of the spy allegations is a 60-page document -- a compilation 


field reports by Drug Enforcement Administration agents and other U.S. 


enforcement officials.

Creative Loafing last week obtained a copy of the report from 


sources with long-term contacts among both Israeli and American 


The government has attempted to deflect attention from earlier leaks 


the spy scandal. However, while declining to confirm or deny the

authenticity of the document, a spokesman for the DEA, William Glaspy, 


acknowledge that the agency had received many reports of the nature

described in the 60 pages.

A source familiar with the creation of the document has told CL that 


60-page memo was a draft intended as the base for a 250-page report. 


larger report has not been produced because of the volatile nature of

suggesting that Israel spies on America's deepest secrets.

Another DEA spokesperson, Rogene Waite, told Associated Press a draft

document had been compiled and forwarded to other agencies.

The validity of the scenarios described in the document is attested to 


at least one official mention. The Office of the National

Counterintelligence Executive, in a March 2001 summary, reported on

"suspicious visitors to federal facilities" and noted the type of

"aggressive" activity recounted in the document obtained by the Planet.

The nation's most prominent Jewish newspaper, the New York-based 


also has confirmed portions of the vast spying network -- although 


that the Israelis were monitoring Arabs in the United States, not 


to access U.S. secrets. Referring to the arrest of five Israeli 


of a New Jersey moving company who were arrested and held for two 


after the Sept. 11 attack, Forward on March 15 stated: "According to 


former high-ranking American intelligence official, who asked not to be

named, the FBI came to the conclusion at the end of its investigation 


the five Israelis ... were conducting a Mossad surveillance mission and

that their employer, Urban Moving Systems of Weehawken, N.J., served as 



Forward also reported that a counterintelligence probe concluded two of

the men were operatives of Mossad, Israel's spy service.

Reports of the spying were first made public in December broadcasts by 


News reporter Carl Cameron. It isn't clear whether he had the 60-page

document or was only told its contents. A French online news service 


obtained the report, and Le Monde in Paris has advanced the story.

However, in the United States, the media ignored the original Fox

broadcast, and only a handful of publications. The Atlanta

Journal-Constitution hasn't reported the story although another 


paper, The Palm Beach Post has.

The absence of reporting hasn't gone unnoticed. The authoritative 


intelligence and military analysis service, Jane's Information Group, 


March 13 chided: "It is rather strange that the U.S. media ... seem to 


ignoring what may well prove to be the most explosive story since the 


September attack, the alleged breakup of a major Israeli espionage

operation in the United States which aimed to infiltrate both the 


and Defense departments and which may also have been tracking al-Qaida

terrorists before the aircraft hijackings took place."

In flat language and sometimes excruciating bureaucratic detail, the

document relates scores of encounters between federal agents and 


describing themselves as art students. The implication is that the

seemingly innocuous cover was used to gain access to sensitive U.S.

offices and military installations. For example, Paragraph 82 of the

document states that MacDill Air Force Base intelligence officers were

warned in March 2001 of the art students' efforts. A month later, a

special alert was issued about a "possible intelligence collection 


at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City. Among other activities, the

base houses AWACS surveillance planes and repairs B-1 bombers.

The author of the document is not identified. However, many DEA and 


law enforcement agents are named. CL has contacted some of the named

agents, and three federal employees have confirmed the incidents 


in the report. None disputed the authenticity of the report. One senior

DEA official, when read paragraphs that mentioned him, said: 


that's my report," adding, however, that he didn't think the incidents

were sufficient to prove an ongoing spy operation. All of the federal

employees said they could not be quoted by name.

The specific incidents are richly chronicled, down to names, drivers'

license numbers, addresses and phone numbers of the Israelis.

Perhaps most intriguing, the Israelis' military and intelligence

specialties are listed: "special forces," "intelligence officer,"

"demolition/explosive ordnance specialist," "bodyguard to head of 


army," "electronic intercept operator" -- even "son of a two-star

(Israeli) army general."

"The activities of these Israeli art students raised the suspicion of 


DEA's Office of Security Programs) and other field offices when 


were made to circumvent the access control systems at DEA offices, and

when these individuals began to solicit their paintings at the homes of

DEA employees," the document states. "The nature of the individuals'

conduct, combined with intelligence information and historical 


regarding past incidents (involving Israelis leads the DEA) to believe 


incidents may well be an organized intelligence gathering activity."

The document also links the Israelis to possible drug investigations. 


report states: "DEA Orlando has developed the first drug nexus to this

group. Telephone numbers obtained from an Israeli Art Student 


at the Orlando (district office) have been linked to several ongoing 


MDMA (Ecstasy) investigations in Florida, California, Texas, and New


Much of the Israeli activity, according to the report, centered on

Florida. In addition to attempting to gain access to government

installations, the document states that the Israelis approached many

intelligence agents, prosecutors and federal marshals at their homes --

including one incident on Davis Islands.

In researching this story, the CL has learned of other encounters not

included in the 60-page report. For example, a member of Congress from

Georgia recounted to CL of being targeted by the art students on two

occasions. A Tampa state court judge was also approached. Neither the

member of Congress nor the judge wanted to be named.

In an era where CNN CEO Walter Issacson says it would be "perverse" to

televise Afghan babies killed by U.S. bombs, it's not surprising some

stories go unnoticed by a press that embraces "patriotism" by ignoring

sacred cows.

One such sacred cow is what's happening in Israel and Palestine. 


know that to criticize Israel -- to point out, for example, that wanton

killing of innocents is equally devilish, whether committed by Ariel

Sharon's soldiers flying U.S.-made helicopters, or by a Hamas suicide

bomber who pushes the button -- is to risk being called an anti-Semite.

It's a tired canard meant to bludgeon debate into silence, but it's 



Even with that background, however, it's a little hard to understand 


media's avoidance of the spy story. In 1999, word began spreading among

intelligence agencies about bands of Israeli "students" doing very 


things, such as popping up around federal buildings and military

establishments marketing artwork.

According to CL intelligence sources, low-level alerts began being 


around to offices of the FBI, DEA, federal prosecutors and others. By

March 23, 2001, counterintelligence officials had issued a bulletin to 


on the watch for Israelis masquerading as "art students." The alert 


that there was an "ongoing 'security threat' in the form of individuals

who are purportedly 'Israeli National Art Students' that are targeting

government offices selling 'artwork.'"

At the same time, American intelligence services were increasingly 


by the dominance of many highly sensitive areas of telecommunications 


Israeli companies. Comverse Infosys (now called Verint) provides U.S.

lawmen with computer equipment for wiretapping. Speculation is that 


gates" in the system allowed listeners to be listened to. Software made 


another Israeli outfit, Amdocs, provided extensive records of virtually

all calls placed by the 25 largest U.S. telephone companies. The

relationship of those companies to the detained Israelis is detailed in

the 60-page document.

The DEA's intense interest in the case stems from its 1997 purchase of

$25-million in interception equipment from Israeli companies, according 


a March 14 report by Intelligence Online, a French Web-based service 


first revealed the existence of the 60-page document.

"In assigning so many resources to the inquiry (all DEA offices were 


to contribute)," Intelligence Online stated. "The agency was clearly

worried that its own systems might have been compromised."

Often the Israeli "students" sold their artwork on street locations 


federal buildings. In Tampa on March 1, 2001, a DEA agent heard a knock 


his office door. According to the government report: "At the door was a

young female who immediately identified herself as an Israeli art 


who had beautiful art to sell." Knowing about the security alert, the

agent began questioning the "student." After several contradictory

statements, the agent concluded "her responses were evasive at best."

Elsewhere, the document notes that the students were "persistent" in

trying to gain access to the homes of law enforcement personnel.

On other occasions, the "students" showed up at homes of intelligence

agents, judges and other government employees. The report describes a

December 2000 incident when a man and a woman knocked on the door of an

Atlanta DEA agent. "Both subjects claimed to be Israeli art students," 


document states. "The Special Agent examined some of the artwork, but

became suspicious when the students would not provide him with a 


telephone number.... Subsequently, the Special Agent saw someof the 


same artwork for sale at [a]kiosk in the Mall of Georgia."

Many of the apparent operatives had set up shop at addresses only 


throws from Arabs in San Diego, Little Rock, Irving, Texas, and in 


Florida. The Planet also has obtained a watch list of mostly Arabs 


scrutiny by the U.S. government. The addresses of many correspond to 


specific areas where the Israelis established bases.

For example, an address for the Sept. 11 hijacking leader, Mohammad 


is 3389 Sheridan St. in Hollywood, Fla., only a few blocks and a few

hundred feet from the address of some of the Israelis, at 4220 


A dozen Israelis, including the alleged surveillance leader, had been

based in Hollywood, Fla., between January and June last year -- quite

possibly watching Arabs living nearby who are suspected of providing

logistical support to Osama bin Laden's network. Especially in Florida,

where 10 of the 19 Sept. 11 terrorists lived, the revelations about the

Israeli activities bolster speculation, reported by a Fox news 


that the students-cum-spies might have gained advance knowledge of 


of the Sept. 11 terrorists -- and not passed on that critical 


to the United States. CL sources with Israeli connections suggest that 


information might have been relayed to U.S. agencies, but might have 


ignored or overlooked.

Despite the highly suspect behavior of the Israelis, the media hadn't

picked up on the story.

Then came Sept. 11. While America was mesmerized by the "War on

Terrorism," the media went out to a four-martini lunch when it came to

skeptical reporting.

With a few commendable exceptions. One of those is Carl Cameron, a 


reporter for Fox News. On Dec. 12, Cameron broke the blockbuster spy

story. He said at the time: "Since Sept. 11, more than 60 Israelis have

been arrested or detained, either under the new PATRIOT anti-terrorism

law, or for immigration violations. A handful of active Israeli 


were among those detained, according to investigators, who say some of 


detainees also failed polygraph questions when asked about alleged

surveillance activities against and in the United States."

Fox also reported the Israeli "students" "targeted" U.S. military bases 


which is bolstered by the report obtained by the CL.

In the rest of the world -- Europe, Arab countries and Israel, 


-- the story made headlines. Even the offficial Chinese news agency 


up. Not in our well-defended (against disturbing news) homeland, 


Cameron, in an interview, said he doesn't believe the conspiracy 


about why the story was ignored here. An honest scribe, he points to a

shortcoming in his own work -- one hammered on by Israeli critics at 


time -- conceding "there were no (on the record) interviews. I didn't 


other reporters where to find the documents. They couldn't do instant


Others at Fox confirm there was intense pressure on the network by

pro-Israeli lobbying groups, such as the Anti-Defamation League and the

misnamed Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting (CAMERA).

"These charges are arrant nonsense unworthy of the usually reliable Fox

News," CAMERA huffed in a Dec. 12 release.

Cameron reported Dec. 13 that federal agents were afraid to criticize

Israel. "Investigators within the DEA, INS and FBI have all told Fox 


that to pursue or even suggest Israeli spying ... is considered career


Cameron told me in similar language that's what journalists also can 


And, what's clear is that Fox quickly removed the story from its Web 


(It was reposted this month by Fox after other media began showing

interest in the story.)

After Cameron's initial reports, the story pretty much evaporated in 


United States before Christmas. Then, all hell broke loose in the last 


weeks. Intelligence Online in France obtained the same 60-page June 


federal report that CL has. The French Web site reported that 120 


had by now been detained or deported by U.S. authorities.

Let's repeat that: 120 potential spies. This isn't worth press 


Few papers have given the story significant space. Many, like the AJC,

haven't uttered a peep.

Some of what has seeped out is disturbing. The Oklahoman, prompted by 


French articles, reported last week that 10 months ago four Israelis

peddling artwork (but carrying military IDs) were detained near 


Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma. Le Monde in Paris recounted that six

intercepted "students" had cell phones purchased by an Israeli vice 


in the United States. Sources told me that many of the phones had a

walkie-talkie feature that was virtually impossible to intercept.

Bush administration shills were quick to try to spin the story -- 


to minimize damage should it turn out the government did have 


in advance about the people or activities that led to the Sept. 11 


A Justice Department spokesperson, Susan Dryden, called the spy report 


"urban myth," and other federal flacks trumpeted that no Israeli had 


charged with or deported for spying. Of course, in the Great Game,

"friendly" spies are seldom embarrassed by being called by their true

colors. The Israelis who have been deported have been given the boot

because of visa expirations and other minor violations.

The Washington Post, which apparently doesn't have the 60-page 


nonetheless reported March 6 that unnamed law enforcement officials had

told the paper that a "disgruntled" DEA agent had compiled the report

after other federal agencies didn't react to the Israelis' suspicious

behavior. The Post, however, also quoted a DEA spokesman who 


that the large number of incident reports had been combined into a 


memo. As with CL's inquiry, the DEA spokesman wouldn't confirm for the

Post whether the memo was the 60-page document.

Predictably, Israeli Embassy spokesman Mark Reguev derided the

Intelligence Online report as "nonsense."

And, pro-Israeli apologists such as anti-Arab ideologue Daniel Pipes

quickly took the field with strident polemics. Pipes, who makes no 


of having seen the 60-page document, nonetheless claimed in a March 11

column that the story was a "dangerous falsehood" and that "U.S.

journalists found not a shred of evidence to support" it.

The fact that reporters were beginning to piece together real shreds 


blithely ignored by Pipes.

Israel in the past has belligerently denied wrongdoing until long after

the truth was obvious. Israel claimed Jonathan Pollard -- a super spy 


did horrendous, deadly damage to the United States until arrested in 


- wasn't an agent. And, Israel has stubboornly contended its 1967 attack 


the USS Liberty, in which 35 American sailors were slaughtered, was an

accident -- a lie exposed in recent reports including one last fall on 


History Channel. A recent authoritative book, Body of Secrets, by James

Bamford, concludes that National Security Agency officials "were 


unanimous in their belief that the attack was deliberate."

With the purported art students, it's likely that denial will reach

screeching levels. The Bush administration would find it difficult to

explain why it either ignored or discounted such a large espionage


Senior Editor John Sugg can be reached at 404-614-1241.


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