I love how the pundits are yawning over the latest WikiLeaks revelations: oh, there’s nothing to see here, it’s all so boring, no "smoking gun," so let’s just move right along. These people are just plain lazy: they want "scoops" delivered to their front doors, all neatly packaged and labeled as such. In short, they don’t want to have to do any work, beyond the usual cut-and-paste. Which is why a lot of the really juicy stuff coming out of WikiLeaks continues to elude them.
Take, for example, this excerpt from a cable dated May 15, 2009 — entitled "Israel, A Promised Land for
Organized Crime?" — sent by our embassy in Tel Aviv, which deals with the rising influence of Israeli organized crime:
"As recently as March 2009, Zvika Ben Shabat, Yaacov Avitan, and Tzuri Roka requested visas to attend a ‘security-related convention’ in Las Vegas. According to local media reports, all three had involvement with OC. Post asked the applicants to provide police reports for any criminal records in Israel, but without such evidence there is no immediate ineligibility for links to OC. Luckily, all three have so far failed to return for continued adjudication of their applications. Nevertheless, it is fair to assume that many known OC figures hold valid tourist visas to the United States and travel freely."
What are organized crime figures doing showing up at a "security-related convention" in Las Vegas? Well, it seems Mr. Zvika Ben Shabat is the President of "H.A.Sh Security Group," an Israeli company that offers security services worldwide. Indeed, they just signed an agreement to start a joint venture with India’s giant Micro-Technologies, a company which is described as follows:
"Micro Technologies was established by Dr. [P.] Shekhar, who served as the person in charge on behalf of the Indian Government for advancement and development of the technology and software field in India (First Director Software Technology Park in India), and his company deals with the development of technologies and is already active in many markets around the world, amongst which are: Denmark, Brussels, Italy, New York, Japan, Singapore, South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Sri Lanka and more. The company has security technologies for identification and monitoring of cell phones, vehicles, structures, computers, infrastructures and WIFI technologies."
In other words, they specialize in snooping, otherwise known as spying. The first Micro Technologies/H.A. Sh Security Group project is a "command and control center" to be built in Mumbai, India. As for what theH.A.Sh Security Group specializes in, well, take a look at these Youtube videos: here, here, and here, for starters. And get a load of who is the Chairman of H.A.Sh Security: none other than retired Major General Dan Ronen, whose resume appears here:
"2001-2003 – Israel Police: Head of the Operations Division, with the rank of Major General; Coordination of activities of all police units in the operational field; Coordination with the General Security Service and IDF units in the battle against terrorism; 2004-2007 – Israel Police: Commander of Northern Region (the largest of the police regions); Responsible for liaison and coordination vis-à-vis heads of local authorities; Responsible for leading and commanding the overall forces and systems during the second Lebanon War, in missions involving defense of the residents in the northern home front; Areas of Expertise: Combat against terrorism and suicide bombers coordination and operation of emergency and rescue organizations Combat against crime and crime organizations."
Gen. Ronen is listed as the Chairman of H.A.Sh Security Group, with Mr. Ben Shabat, variously described [pdf] as the President, Vice-President, and Director. So why is one of Israel’s former top cops in a business relationship with a known member of the Israeli Mafia?
Enquiring minds want to know!
Ominously, the cable goes on to bemoan the fact that Israeli organized crime figures are no longer automatically prevented from entering the US due to a change in the rules. As the author, someone named Cunningham, notes in an appended comment entitled "OC [Organized Crime] Slipping Through the Consular Cracks":
"Given the growing reach and lethal methods of Israeli OC, blocking the travel of known OC figures to the United States is a matter of great concern to Post. Through collaboration with Israeli and U.S. law enforcement authorities, Post has developed an extensive database and placed lookouts for OC figures and their foot soldiers. Nevertheless, the above visa cases demonstrate the challenges that have arisen since the termination of the Visas Shark in September 2008. Unlike OC groups from the former Soviet Union, Italy, China, and Central America, application of INA 212(a)(3)(A)(ii) against Israeli OC is not specifically authorized per Foreign Affairs Manual 40.31 N5.3. As such, Israelis who are known to work for or belong to OC families are not automatically ineligible for travel to the United States."
"Visas Shark" was apparently a program that effectively excluded organized crime figures from the US, and its termination is noted here: instead, the embassy must go through a complex bureaucratic procedure in order to exclude a suspected organized crime member. First, the consular official must determine that a "reasonable suspicion" exists to identify a visa applicant as a member of an organized crime syndicate, and then the matter goes back to the State Department’s "Office of Legislation, Regulations, and Advisory Assistance," which will then determine if a "reason to believe" the derogatory information on the applicant exists. A whole laundry list of possible "reasons to believe" are listed, including
"Acknowledgement of membership by the individual, …actively working to further the organization’s aims in a way to suggest close affiliation; Receiving financial support or recognition from the organization; Determination of membership by a competent court; Statement from local or U.S. law enforcement authorities that the individual is a member; Frequent association with other members; Voluntarily displaying symbols of the organization; and participating in the organization’s activities, even if lawful."
Yet it was due to media reports that the author of the cable determined the connection of Messrs Ben Shabat, Avitan, and Roka to organized crime. Is this good enough to have a "reason to believe"? Ask the Office of Legislation, Regulation, and Advisory Assistance – which is what our embassy in Tel Aviv (and, indeed, our embassies all around the world) must do before they can refuse a visa to an applicant on that basis.
Not that the Israeli Mafia has had any problem entering the United States in the past – and making its presence felt. As Fox News’ Carl Cameron reported on December 17, 2001:
"Los Angeles, 1997, a major local, state and federal drug investigating sours. The suspects: Israeli organized crime with operations in New York, Miami, Las Vegas, Canada, Israel and Egypt. The allegations: cocaine and ecstasy trafficking, and sophisticated white-collar credit card and computer fraud.
"The problem: according to classified law enforcement documents obtained by Fox News, the bad guys had the cops’ beepers, cell phones, even home phones under surveillance. Some who did get caught admitted to having hundreds of numbers and using them to avoid arrest.
"This compromised law enforcement communications between LAPD detectives and other assigned law enforcement officers working various aspects of the case. The organization discovered communications between organized crime intelligence division detectives, the FBI and the Secret Service.
"Shock spread from the DEA to the FBI in Washington, and then the CIA. An investigation of the problem, according to law enforcement documents, concluded, ‘The organization has apparent extensive access to database systems to identify pertinent personal and biographical information.’"
Israel’s hi-tech military sector is booming in the midst of a world economic downturn, and the "homeland security" industry is something they’ve jumped into head first, as Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania knows all too well. It was Rendell who hired them to oversee Pennsylvania’s security – until it was revealed they were spying on legal citizens groups who were protesting the construction of a local power plant. Israeli "security" firms are operating all over the US, as well as abroad, in airports, and government facilities, and if Israeli organized crime is now a factor in that booming industry, then surely that’s a major security concern – or ought to be.
Cameron’s four-part Fox News investigation into Israeli spying in the US seemed to posit a connection between the Israeli government and the Israeli Mafia, and, thanks to WikiLeaks, we can now see the link made visible. The Gen. Ronen-Ben Shabat connection, through the H.A.Sh Security Group, shows Cameron’s reporting was based on more than a mere suspicion. Given the additional information provided by this cable, it is reasonable to believe a corrupted segment of the Israeli military-law enforcement establishment has literally gone into business with Israeli organized crime.
If that isn’t scary — and newsworthy — I don’t know what is. Yet our laid-back pundits, and "journalists" — who want a story delivered on a silver platter — complain that there’s nothing really new to be found in the WikiLeaks cables.
That’s because they aren’t looking.