Thursday, February 04, 2010

The Strange Case of Stewart David Nozette

Americans who worry that the FBI and the rest of our multi-billion dollar per year intelligence apparatus is little improved since the failures that contributed to 9/11 and other security lapses point to the recent Fort Hood massacre and the near disaster on a Detroit-bound plane carrying a terrorist who was carrying explosives as evidence that their concerns are not far-fetched. We can perhaps breathe easier because the Feds have arrested Steward David Nozette on espionage charges. Let’s celebrate and pay no heed to the inconsequential circumstance that whatever spying Nozette is accused of was arranged entirely by the FBI.

This is a strange case that somehow involves Israel. The FBI decided, perhaps because Nozette is Jewish, that it would fabricate a scenario of potential spying for Israel, although there actually was no spying and Israel knew nothing about what was happening. Israel haters are singing their familiar tune, abetted by a Yossi Melman article in Haaretz that fails to meet the low standards of what nowadays often passes as journalism.

Nozette is not an attractive figure. A physicist with an MIT doctorate, he has worked for several governmental agencies and served openly as a consultant to Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), as well as operating his own business. He pled guilty a year ago to fraud and tax evasion charges that had no link to Israel and he was set to serve a sentence of up to three years. He apparently told a colleague that he might flee to Israel and that information was passed on to the FBI which, in turn, decided on a sting operation, with an FBI officer posing as a Mossad agent. His espionage, such as it was, occurred this past September. According to the indictment, he “did knowingly and unlawfully attempt to communicate, deliver and transfer to a foreign government, to wit the Government of the State of Israel, and representatives, officers, and agents thereof, directly and indirectly, documents and information relating to the national defense of the United States, specifically, documents and information classified TOP SECRET/SCI and SECRET/SCI.”

This isn’t accurate because Nozette 1) had contact with an FBI agent and not with the Israeli government and 2) he, in fact, did not transmit any information or documents. At most, he intimated that he could transmit. This doesn’t make him a Boy Scout and he may have committed a serious crime, but not the one he is accused of. In moving to deny Nozette bail, the government claims that he “demonstrated his willingness to work for Israeli intelligence, as demonstrated by the following conversation.” Here is the conversation in its entirety. UCE refers to an undercover employee of the FBI. The text is in bold in the original, presumably to highlight the severity of Nozette’s espionage.
UCE: I’ll just say it real quick and then we’ll just move on. Quick, I wanna clarify something from the start. And I don’t say it very often, but umm, I work for Israeli Intelligence…


ICE: Agency known here as Mossad.


UCE: So from now on I’m not gonna say this. But if I say service…

Nozette: Mm-hmm

UCE: so you know what that, what it is. But I just want be sure, I’ll let it out so we don’t have any ambiguity later on. But


UCE: How you doin’?

NOZETTE: Good. Happy to be of assistance.
This would be funny, if it wasn’t serious business or, perhaps, it is a crime to excessively say “Mm-hmm.” Prosecutors now claim that they have additional evidence found on Nozette’s computer, including a document titled “Proposed Operations for 2005-2006” that refers to the need to penetrate NASA, whatever that means. The Haaretz article which carries the provocative headline, “American Jew Indicted as Possible Spy for Israel in U.S.,” claims that after seizing Nozette’s computer, the FBI “found additional proof of his connection to Israel,” including several visits that he did not report, “letters he wrote to Israelis, reports he forwarded to IAI, a map of Israel, photos of assorted places in Israel, a Hebrew-language catalog of archeological artifacts and other items.”

None of this strikes me as criminal, yet Melman is being cited by those who constantly disparage Israel as proof that this is another Pollard case. One example is the blog INTELNEWS written by Ian Allen and Joseph Fitsanakis. One of their notable postings was “Is Israeli intelligence aiding Islamic groups?” They conclude their nasty posting on Nozette: “As the links between Steward David Nozette and the Israeli government become increasingly apparent, they help dispel the romantic belief – stubbornly maintained by some U.S. officials – that Israeli espionage operations on US soil are a thing of the past.”

There may be more to the Nozette case, but after reading the available documents I am doubtful. Maybe it is a crime for an American Jew to have links to Israel, but that, too, is highly questionable. The Nozette case begs for greater attention within our community. Perhaps our defense organizations and media will show some backbone, but that would require a significant transformation which does not seem to be in the offing. The prospect is for Israel to be falsely accused of a crime that apparently from A to Z was concocted by the FBI.

Unfortunately, there is much else in the FBI’s record that American Jews should be concerned about. Is it our obligation or fate to worship this false idol?