US Spy’s Israel Ties Deeper Than First Thought
By Ian Allen* and Joseph Fitsanakis* | intelNews | 01.25.2010
NEW COURT DOCUMENTS SHOW THAT Stewart David Nozette, an American scientist arrested for attempted espionage during an FBI sting last October, had deeper ties to Israel than initially believed. Nozette, a former employee of the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was arrested for attempting to share classified US government data with an undercover FBI officer posing as a handler of Israeli intelligence agency Mossad.
At the time of Nozette’s arrest, the US Justice Department argued for keeping him in jail, as he “might flee to Israel if not confined”. Interestingly, however, US officials said at the time that Israel had no role in Nozette’s attempted espionage, and the FBI’s own indictment admitted that the Bureau “does not allege that the government of Israel or anyone acting on its behalf committed any offense under US laws in this case”.
Shortly after Nozette’s arrest, we raised two important counterintelligence questions: first, how did the FBI know to lure Nozette with an agent posing as an Israeli –as opposed to a Russian or Chinese– handler? Second, why would Nozette flee to –and presumably be protected by– Israel, even though the government of Israel was not involved in this case, according to the FBI? We then suggested that Nozette’s connection to Israel, through his most recent employer, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), was probably much deeper than the FBI was prepared to admit publicly.
In early November, it was revealed that Nozette was not simply a Mossad agent-wannabe, but “had [actually] passed information to Israel in the past”. Now two attorneys in the counterespionage unit of the US Department of Justice’s National Security Division, have helped solve part of the riddle behind the Nozette-Israel connection. First, it appears that Nozette visited Israel several times in recent years, but did not report this to the US government, thus breaking a vital stipulation of his top national security clearance. Second, US government attorneys said Nozette’s home computer contained documents describing potential espionage operations against NASA, including one titled “Proposed Operations for 2005-2006”, in which the former NASA scientist made the case for penetrating the agency. Finally, as intelNews reported earlier this month, Nozette “may have impersonated a naval research official in order to acquire classified information”.
Writing for Israeli daily Ha’aretz, Yossi Melman correctly points out that, even though Israeli government-owned IAI maintains it had no connection with Nozette’s espionage, the US scientist’s activities seem to fit the mold of Israeli spying missions on US soil, which Israel has “systematically conducted […] since its establishment”. Melman also links Nozette’s case to that of Jonathan Jay Pollard, a US Navy intelligence analyst who in 1987 was found guilty of spying on the US on behalf of Israel. In an attempt to secure Pollard’s release from the US prison system, Israeli officials privately maintain that Jerusalem has decided to put a halt on all spying activity on US soil. But, as Melman points out, US government officials “have a hard time believing Israel on this subject, and the Nozette case does not contribute to clearing the atmosphere of suspicion regarding future intentions”.
Melman, a seasoned national security and intelligence correspondent, is of course correct. As the links between Stewart David Nozette and the Israeli government become increasingly apparent, they help dispel the romantic belief –stubbornly maintained by some US officials– that Israeli espionage operations on US soil are a thing of the past.
* Ian Allen has spent nearly twenty-five years working in intelligence-related fields, and is now active in intelligence consulting. He has worked in North America, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. He is currently living and working in South Korea. He is co-founder and Editor of intelNews.org. His latest writings for intelNews.org are available here.
* Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis has been writing and teaching on the politics of intelligence for over ten years. His areas of academic expertise include the institutional analysis of the intelligence community; the interception of communications; and the history of intelligence with particular reference to international espionage during the Cold War. He is co-founder and Senior Editor of intelNews.org. His latest writings for intelNews.org are available here.