N.J. man accused of spying for Israel

The arrest this week of a retired a New Jersey man on charges of transmitting classified information to Israel two decades ago shows how the Jonathan Pollard spy case continues to haunt the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Ben-Ami Kadish, a former U.S. Army engineer, was scheduled to appear Tuesday in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan. He is facing four charges of conspiracy to share classified information with Israel.

From 1979 to 1985, Kadish allegedly “borrowed” documents from the library of the Army facility in Dover, N.J., where he was employed and shared them with the science affairs consul at the Israeli consulate in New York.

The Justice Department says the documents included information on nuclear weaponry and plans for upgrading the F-15 combat aircraft. Kadish allegedly told FBI agents that he shared the documents to help Israel; he was not paid by Israel for his services.

The science affairs consul is not named in the Justice Department’s complaint sheet, but an archival search reveals him to be Yosef Yagur. The complaint sheet notes that “co-conspirator-1” — Yagur, who is not charged — also received information from Pollard.

Israel recalled Yagur and his Washington counterpart, Ilan Ravid, in November 1985 to avoid their involvement in the Pollard investigation.

The Pollard case for a short time devastated U.S.-Israel relations. In its aftermath, Israel swore never to run a spy again, and Americans broadened their information sharing with Israel to keep the Israelis from temptation.

This week’s arrest of Kadish — who lives in a retirement community in Monroe, N.J., and is active in his local Jewish community — begs the question of why U.S. federal authorities are still pursuing Pollard-related leads more than 20 years after the fact.

Pollard, a civilian U.S. Navy analyst, was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 after pleading guilty to the spy charges.

Yagur on Tuesday refused to answer reporters’ questions. Israeli officials said they knew nothing of the case. Officials at Israel’s consulate in New York declined to comment.

It is not clear from the complaint sheet filed Monday that Kadish was the original target of this investigation. The sheet notes that a grand jury subpoena was issued on March 21, a day after Kadish’s first interview with agents, but does not say whether the subpoena sought his testimony as a witness or as a target. In any case, detectives did not immediately serve the subpoena.

Instead, the complaint sheet says that at the March 20 interview, federal agents presented Kadish with evidence that he shared 30 to 100 documents with Yagur between 1979 and 1985. Kadish allegedly first met Yagur in the 1970s when Yagur was employed by Israel Aircraft Industries. They were introduced by Kadish’s brother, also employed by IAI, the complaint sheet says.

At that meeting, Kadish acknowledged sharing some of the documents with Yagur, the complaint sheet says, and acknowledged that he did not have the authority to share such documents.

That evening, Yagur allegedly phoned Kadish and implored him not to cooperate. The complaint sheet says that in a conversation in Hebrew, Yagur said, “Don’t say anything. Let them say whatever they want.” He also said, “What happened 25 years ago? You didn’t remember anything.”

The next day, Kadish allegedly downplayed his ties to Yagur in a second interview with FBI agents. He said that over the years the two had maintained nothing more than a social relationship, with phone calls, e-mails and occasional visits; Kadish and Yagur had met in Israel in 2004.

More crucial, Kadish allegedly denied having been in touch with Yagur the previous evening.

That alleged lie could prove critical to Kadish’s prosecution: It allows prosecutors to expand the conspiracy from 1985 to March 20 of this year, when Yagur allegedly urged Kadish to lie.

There is a 10-year statute of limitations on the crimes outlined in the complaint sheet. Without the alleged lie, the government’s case would be flimsy.

Kadish, a Connecticut native who grew up in pre-state Palestine, served in the Haganah, Israel’s pre-state defense force and the precursor to the Israel Defense Forces.

According to the New Jersey Jewish News, he has remained active in the Jewish community since his retirement, particularly at the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County.

Gerrie Bamira, executive director of the federation, said that “Ben-Ami Kadish, his wife and neighbors have in recent years been supportive of the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County and our work in the community.”

“We maintain our belief that individuals are innocent until proven guilty,” Bamira added.

Kadish is also an ex-commander of the Jewish War Veterans Post 609 in Monroe. Moe Eillish, the quartermaster of that post, said of Kadish, “He was a good man.”

Kadish and his wife, Doris, raise money for charitable causes through annual gatherings in their sukkah, according to a 2006 story in the N.J. Jewish News.

JTA staff writer Ben Harris in New York contributed to this report.

Subpoenas in AIPAC trial could reveal U.S. secrets

Subpoenas issued to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and other top Bush administration officials could end up shedding unprecedented light on the Bush administration’s inner workings and the government’s dealings with the pro-Israel lobby.

In an unusually broad ruling Nov. 2 in the classified information case against two ex-officials at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a federal judge allowed the defense to subpoena 15 administration officials over the objections of the Bush administration.

In addition to Rice and Hadley, the list also includes Elliot Abrams, deputy national security adviser who is also the administration’s top policy official on the Middle East; Richard Armitage, former deputy secretary of state; Paul Wolfowitz, former deputy secretary of defense, and Douglas Feith, former undersecretary of defense.

U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III in Alexandria, Va., not only ruled as relevant government conversations with the two defendants — Steve Rosen, AIPAC’s former foreign policy boss, and Keith Weissman, his deputy and the lobby’s top Iran analyst — but also discussions that involved only U.S. officials.

In addition, Ellis said the conversations between officials and other AIPAC representatives were in play. Such conversations are bound to reveal how AIPAC has been used as an instrument by one faction in government to influence or head off another, especially in the fight over how hard a line to take against Iran.

Defense lawyers were elated with the ruling.

“For over two years we have been explaining that our clients’ conduct was lawful and completely consistent with how the U.S. government dealt with AIPAC and other foreign policy groups,” said Rosen’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, in a statement issued also on behalf of Weissman’s lawyer, John Nassikas.

The attorneys each work at top-flight Washington firms: Lowell at McDermott, Will and Emery and Nassikas at Arent Fox.

“We are gratified that the judge has agreed that the defense has the right to prove these points by calling the secretary of state and all of these other government officials as our witnesses,” Lowell said. “We look forward to the trial of this case.”

The government may still oppose the subpoenas, but Ellis warned that this could endanger its case.

“The government’s refusal to comply with a subpoena in these circumstances may result in dismissal or a lesser sanction,” the judge wrote.

Rosen and Weissman were charged under a never-used statute in the 1917 Espionage Act that criminalizes the receipt and dissemination of classified information by civilians. Free-speech advocates, press groups and lobbyists are closely watching the case.

The defendants have long argued that conversations outlined in the August 2005 indictment were routine and part of the government’s unofficial practice of using the pro-Israel lobby to convey information to Israel, the press, other nations or even other branches of government.

Ellis in his ruling agreed that the defense was attempting to make a valid argument.

“Defendants are entitled to show that, to them, there was simply no difference between the meetings for which they are not charged and those for which they are charged,” Ellis wrote, “and that they believed that the meetings charged in the indictment were simply further examples of the government’s use of AIPAC as a diplomatic back channel.”

Another five officials were left off the list for reasons Ellis kept classified. Defense sources said it was not clear if Ellis had ruled them out absolutely and that defense lawyers would seek his guidance on the matter.

The government did not raise objections to the four subpoenas for officials who were identified in the indictment. One of those officials, Lawrence Franklin, an Iran analyst at the Pentagon, has pleaded guilty to leaking classified information and was sentenced to more than 12 years; he has not begun his sentence. Another, David Satterfield, is now Rice’s top adviser on Iraq issues.

The core of the indictment centers on a sting operation in the summer of 2004, when Franklin leaked to Weissman false information purporting that Iranian forces planned to kill Israeli agents in Kurdistan. Rosen and Weissman allegedly relayed the information to Israeli diplomats and journalists, and tried to pass it on to Abrams.

Ellis dismissed out of hand all of the prosecution’s objections, including whether such subpoenas would interfere with the business of government.

“Inconvenience to public officials in the performance of their official duties is not a basis for infringing a defendant’s Sixth Amendment compulsory process rights,” the judge wrote.

More broadly, Ellis dismissed government contentions that including conversations among government officials or between government officials and other AIPAC staffers amounted to hearsay.

“Such meetings may nonetheless have affected defendants’ states of mind if the contents of those meetings were later communicated to them by other AIPAC employers,” Ellis wrote, allowing all relevant conversations between any AIPAC staffer and a government official to be included.

Ellis added: “Conversations between two or more government officials, even if not communicated to defendants, might be relevant to show that particular government officials authorized the disclosure of nonpublic information to defendants or to AIPAC,” he wrote. “For instance, if defendants can demonstrate that a high-ranking government official authorized his subordinate to disclose NDI,” or national defense information, “to AIPAC employees, such an authorization would be exculpatory to defendants.”

Under this allowance, defense lawyers are free to probe Defense Department officials, including Wolfowitz, who might have sought to head off the State Department’s Iran policy with selective leaks through AIPAC. Wolfowitz and others at the Pentagon toed a considerably harder line on Iran than those at the State Department and would have used AIPAC — also hard-line in how to deal with the Islamic republic — in lobbying Congress and shaping public opinion.

“We are aware of the order authorizing the potential issuance of subpoenas in the Rosen and Weissman case should the case go to trial,” said Gordon Johndroe, the spokesman for Hadley and Abrams. “It is our understanding that no subpoenas have been issued at this time. We cannot comment further because this is an ongoing criminal prosecution.”

AIPAC and the State Department refused comment.