What if you had information that foreign government officials, utilizing their resources in the United States, were plotting to drag America into a ruinous war, using their connections with key American lawmakers and the media to get members of Congress and the public on board – what would you do?
Unless you’re either a traitor or a coward, you’d expose the scheme to the light of day – and you’d be a hero, at least in my book. From the perspective of the Obama administration, however, you’re a criminal – and the sentence could be severe.
In a secret trial in which not even the judge was allowed to look at the evidence, FBI translator and human rights blogger Shamai Leibowitz, an Israeli-American lawyer, was sentenced to 20 months in prison for the “crime” of exposing Israel’s extensive efforts to influence American policymakers to support a strike against Iran.
Leibowitz, hired to translate documents for US government agencies monitoring the Israeli embassy in Washington, was shocked by what he read. According to blogger Richard Silverstein, who has seen the transcripts:
“[Israeli diplomats] were talking about things that weren’t necessarily illegal, but would be shocking to American people. They target key opinion shapers and key players in society and use long-term plans to sponsor conferences, ghost-author op/ed pieces, and jawbone members of Congress. All together is this image that they really want America to go to war with Iran, or okay Israel going to war with Iran.”
They “target” opinion shapers – with what?
Sponsoring conferences is one thing – but this “targeting” business has more than a few ominous implications. Are the Israelis going after opinion shapers and “key players” who might not favor their war agenda – and, if so, in what way?
Leibowtiz handed the transcripts over to Silverstein, who wrote about them on his blog: that post has since been deleted, and I can’t find it utilizing Google cache (although it’s go to be there somewhere). Silverstein has since burned the materials given to him by Leibowitz, out of a quite justifiable fear that he’ll be prosecuted, too.
However, it isn’t hard to imagine what was in them: to call Israel’s propaganda campaign in the US aggressive would be an understatement. There are plenty of “American” organizations that act as unregistered agents of the Israeli state, and I’m not just talking about AIPAC. The Israel lobby, as John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt have shown, is a powerful force in our politics, and this force often crosses the line that separates propaganda from espionage – the case of Steve Rosen, the former AIPAC top honcho busted [.pdf] for pilfering secret information from the Pentagon’s chief Iran analyst, Larry Franklin, is just one example. Effective propaganda requires information, preferably inside information – including highly classified secrets – which is what Rosen and his AIPAC cohorts were after.
That Israel and its American amen corner have long been trying to provoke a US attack on Iran is hardly a secret. On the other hand, the lengths to which the Israelis will go in order to accomplish this goal are deemed so sensitive by our government that it will go after anyone who tries to reveal it. That should tell us something.
Yes, the US routinely spies on everyone, including its ostensible allies, but this case ought to set off alarm bells: clearly our spooks are very concerned about what the Israelis are up to in this country, and have been for quite some time. Add to this the vindictive nature of Leibowitz’s prosecution, and it’s not stretching the truth to say the government is clearly panicked Israel’s covert activities in the US could become public knowledge. While Silverstein is being extra careful to avoid saying anything that could motivate the Justice Department to put him away in a cell next to Leibowitz’s, his opinion that the activities described in the transcripts “weren’t necessarily illegal” leaves plenty of room for interpretation.
I don’t blame Silverstein for his reticence. As the Seattle Weekly reports:
“Silverstein isn’t currently facing any legal repercussions for posting the documents that Leibowitz gave him. But he says the fact that the Obama administration has no qualms with jailing federal employees for leaking info means that he takes nothing for granted.
‘I’m expecting that my status as a journalist gives me protection under the First Amendment,’ he says, a tinge of uncertainty creeping into his voice.”
I’ll bet it was more than a “tinge.”
What apparently triggered the FBI monitoring and investigation of Antiwar.com, including myself, was our extensive coverage of Israeli covert activities in the US, particularly a number of my columns on the subject. They were so concerned that a memo from FBI counter-terrorism headquarters in Newark instructs area offices to conduct a preliminary “investigation” on the grounds that we represent a “threat to National Security” and are, without a doubt, “agents of a foreign power.”
Why would my articles on Israeli spying provoke such an off-the-wall assessment? After all, here I am trying to expose a threat to national security – and the FBI considers that to be in itself a threat. So who’s the “agent of a foreign power,” in this case – me, or them?
The FBI apparently stumbled on our treason when researching how their infamous “terrorist suspect list” [.pdf], in its several forms, came to be public knowledge. The answer was easily discernible to anyone with half a brain: they had given it away quite freely, including to one Italian bank and a Finnish financial institution, who promptly posted it online.
That’s how I came across it in my research into the activities of one Dominick Suter, the owner of a New Jersey moving company whose five employees were arrested on 9/11 under highly suspicious circumstances. Their demeanor and activities on observing the World Trade Center fall from a park overlooking the Hudson river provoked a police response, and they were hauled in for questioning. Held for months, and harshly interrogated, the five were among over 200 Israelis rounded up, along with thousands of Arabs, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Suter owned and operated Urban Movers, Inc., and the name of his company was emblazoned on the truck the “high fivers” stood on as they reportedly videotaped the downing of the towers – and seemed to be celebrating. The Forward later reported that this crew was “almost certainly” an operation directed by Israeli intelligence, although Israeli and US officials deny it.
In any case, it was while I was on Suter’s internet trail that I came across the watch list – with Suter’s name, address, and Social Security clearly listed, along with similar information on his wife, Ornit.
So the FBI was looking for them, too.
Our counterintelligence guys (and gals!) no doubt have their hands full with the Israelis. Security experts testify that, in the related fields of industrial and other forms of espionage, they’re right up there with the Chinese and the Russians. However, one has to wonder if, ten years later, they’ve managed to find Mr. Suter. Or maybe they aren’t looking all that hard.
On this morbid anniversary, the War Party’s Saturnalia, we are treated to an unusually large rash of anti-“conspiracy theory” tirades, which debunk an awful lot of “theories” that never did need debunking. Yet there is one such theory which is not a theory at all but simple reporting by Carl Cameron of Fox News, whose four-part series on Israeli spying in the US debuted when the smoke hadn’t yet cleared from the skies over Manhattan. The first broadcast opened with Cameron reporting:
“Since September 11, more than 60 Israelis have been arrested or detained, either under the new patriot anti-terrorism law, or for immigration violations. A handful of active Israeli military were among those detained, according to investigators, who say some of the detainees also failed polygraph questions when asked about alleged surveillance activities against and in the United States.
”There is no indication that the Israelis were involved in the 9-11 attacks, but investigators suspect that they Israelis may have gathered intelligence about the attacks in advance, and not shared it. A highly placed investigator said there are ‘tie-ins.’ But when asked for details, he flatly refused to describe them, saying, ‘evidence linking these Israelis to 9-11 is classified. I cannot tell you about evidence that has been gathered. It’s classified information.’”
This was followed by an exchange between Cameron and Fox News anchor Brit Hume:
“HUME: Carl, what about this question of advanced knowledge of what was going to happen on 9-11? How clear are investigators that some Israeli agents may have known something?
“CAMERON: It’s very explosive information, obviously, and there’s a great deal of evidence that they say they have collected — none of it necessarily conclusive. It’s more when they put it all together. A bigger question, they say, is how could they not have known? Almost a direct quote.
”HUME: Going into the fact that they were spying on some Arabs, right?
Alerted by a Washington Post piece that reported the arrest of 200 Israelis alongside Arab suspects rounded up after 9/11, my investigations into the question of who knew what, and when on September 1, had preceded Cameron’s broadcast by a week or so, and I naturally took up the new information he provided with alacrity. This led me to Suter, and the watch list, which the FBI used as a pretext to pry into our organization and the individuals associated with it.
Having abandoned their investigation of the Urban Movers operation, and concluded there’s nothing to see so we should all move along, the FBI turned it’s Sauron’s Eye on … Antiwar.com. That is, on journalists who had written about the subject utilizing publicly available information, and exercising their First Amendment rights – and, by the way, defending America’s national security against a foreign threat the FBI seems determined to ignore.
Included in the FBI file on Antiwar.com is a column I wrote on the mysterious video that suddenly appeared on a web site supposedly run by al Qaeda, which showed heretofore unknown footage of the twin towers’ demise, connecting it to the video reportedly shot by the Urban Movers. The FBI was very interested in establishing the existence of the Urban Mover’s video, if you read the rest of the material released which is mainly concerned with the wider subject of Israeli foreknowledge of 9/11. Having finally determined that no such video existed, in spite of the clear testimony of more than one eyewitness, the FBI was apparently outraged that I should suggest otherwise. Clearly this makes me a “threat to National Security” – in the Bizarro World of the FBI.
Bizarro World, you’ll recall from your comics-reading youth, was – is – an alternate universe in which the laws of reason and logic are turned on their heads: water flows uphill, right is wrong, left is right, and the FBI, instead of protecting the national security, is determined to violate it.
I don’t ascribe this to any Vast Conspiracy, and so I must plead innocent to the charge of being a “conspiracy theorist.” Although Israel, along with any number of other players in the world of spook-dom, no doubt has its agents inside the castle walls, the real reason for the FBI’s annoyance is simple ass-covering. It’s the first rule in the bureaucrat’s survival manual. We still don’t know the whole story of how it is that they overlooked a plot five years and more in the making, the crucial phase taking place right under their noses, and yet any attempt to probe a little deeper into the many mysteries surrounding this seminal event is met with cries of “conspiracism!” – and the sudden interest of law enforcement.
The evidence compiled by Carl Cameron and others, including credible investigative pieces that appeared in Salon and other “mainstream” publications, such as Le Monde and Die Zeit, makes a convincing case that the Israelis, in the course of tracking Mohammed Atta and his team, learned of the planned attack and neglected to let us in on the plot. On the tenth anniversary of this enormous betrayal, which is being covered up even by the news network that broke the story, an answer to the question asked by that anonymous intelligence official – “How could they not have known?” – becomes all the more urgent.
Yet that is precisely the question our “law enforcement” agencies do not want anyone to ask, let alone answer – and if you do ask, they come after you. If, like Mr. Leibowitz, or me, you expose the activities – “not necessarily illegal” – of a foreign power, then you are treated as if you are the “agents of a foreign power,” as the FBI characterized the staff of Antiwar.com.
This makes perfect Bizarro-sense: in our universe, not so much. However, as I’ve pointed out before – on all too many occasions – the terrific force of the explosions that brought down the World Trade Center opened up a hole in the space-time continuum, so that Bizarro World has “leaked” into our own universe, and is slowly taking it over.
This theory – and, mind you, it is just a theory, albeit one that seems to be freshly confirmed with each passing day – accounts for the moral inversion in effect since that dark September, when imperialism became “liberation” and torture was deemed a “patriotic” act. There are times when I think the Bizarro Effect is receding – such as the popular revolt against the Bizarro idea that the way to face bankruptcy is to increase spending – and at other times (more often, I have to admit), I’m convinced it is not only spreading but getting more intense.
These days, with the revelation of the FBI’s investigation of Antiwar.com, and myself, personally, I am leaning more than ever toward the latter. It has led to me wonder if there are regions of the world the Bizarro Effect has yet to reach, or where it’s influence was never that strong to begin with. I am, in short, seriously considering leaving the country.
As naïve as it might sound, especially coming from a libertarian, I really did think my country was better than this. I am horrified in a way I’ve never been before: I feel betrayed – and vulnerable. While leaving wouldn’t shield me from the Evil Eye of the FBI, or whomever, it would satisfy my own desire to make a statement about the America that once was, and isn’t anymore.
I’m thinking of Italy, perhaps, as the perfect place for an American expatriate of my heritage: I could get dual Italian-American citizenship, and shack up with my relatives in Calabria. So a shout-out to them, if they’re out there, in the form of an S.O.S.: hey guys, the Mafia that’s taken over the US government is after me over here, and so I’m making the same journey my immigrant grandfather made, only in reverse – you got a room to rent?
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
I’ve received several complaints that copies of my book, An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard, have been deficient. I looked into the matter, and discovered that the plates were worn out. My publisher, Prometheus Books, has since rectified this problem, and readers can rest assured that the new plates produce a handsome book. My thanks to the publisher, for attending to the problem promptly, and to my readers for drawing it to my attention.