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The Spies Who Came In From the Art Sale 

CL obtains report detailing alleged Israeli spying in the US

Page 2 of 5

In researching this story, 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 US 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. Reporters 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 US-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 often effective.

Even with that background, however, it's a little hard to understand the media's avoidance of the spy story.

In 1999, word began spreading among intelligence agencies about bands of Israeli "students" doing very strange things, such as popping up around federal buildings and military establishments marketing artwork.

According to CL intelligence sources, low-level alerts began being flashed around to offices of the FBI, DEA, federal prosecutors and others. By March 23, 2001, counterintelligence officials had issued a bulletin to be on the watch for Israelis masquerading as "art students." The alert stated 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 worried by the dominance of many highly sensitive areas of telecommunications by Israeli companies. Comverse Infosys (now called Verint) provides US lawmen with computer equipment for wiretapping. Speculation is that "catch gates" in the system allowed listeners to be listened to. Software made by another Israeli outfit, Amdocs, provided extensive records of virtually all calls placed by the 25 largest US 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 to a March 14 report by Intelligence Online, a French Web-based service that first revealed the existence of the 60-page document.

"In assigning so many resources to the inquiry (all DEA offices were asked 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 near federal buildings. In Tampa on March 1, 2001, a DEA agent heard a knock on his office door. According to the government report: "At the door was a young female who immediately identified herself as an Israeli art student 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," the document states. "The Special Agent examined some of the artwork, but became suspicious when the students would not provide him with a contact telephone number....Subsequently, the Special Agent saw some of the exact same artwork for sale at [a] kiosk in the Mall of Georgia."

Many of the apparent operatives had set up shop at addresses only stones' throws from Arabs in San Diego, Little Rock, Irving, TX, and in South Florida. CL also has obtained a watch list of mostly Arabs under scrutiny by the US government. The addresses of many correspond to the specific areas where the Israelis established bases. For example, an address for the September 11 hijacking leader, Mohammad Atta, in Hollywood, FL is only a few hundred feet from the address of some of the Israelis.

A dozen Israelis, including the alleged surveillance leader, had been based in Hollywood, FL, 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 September 11 terrorists lived, the revelations about the Israeli activities bolster speculation, reported by a Fox news reporter, that the students/spies might have gained advance knowledge of aspects of the September 11 terrorists -- and not passed on that critical intelligence to the United States. CL sources with Israeli connections suggest that the information might have been relayed to US agencies, but might have been ignored or overlooked.

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