Will the US Also Deny Visas to Israel’s Spies?

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is celebrating President Barack Obama’s decision to deny a visa to Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations. AIPAC declared “The very fact that Iranian leaders would even select such a person to represent them at the United Nations underscores the importance of maintaining vigilance against the duplicitous behavior of this regime – particularly in regard to its nuclear program.” Iran’s UN ambassador nominee, Hamid Abutalebi, has been accused of playing a role in the 1979 takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran. Rushed legislation crafted and promoted by Israel’s supporters to block Abutalebi easily passed the House and Senate and await the president’s signature. Until now, the United States has automatically granted visas to heads of state and diplomats from around the world to conduct business at the UN headquarters in New York City. That the new policy is yet another targeted measure to derail current negotiations over the Iranian nuclear program is obvious in how the US treats Israeli diplomats and citizens engaged in nuclear-weapons-related espionage against America.

If President Obama signs the Cruz legislation into law, it would allow him to block Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from ever addressing the United Nations again. According to FBI files declassified and released in 2012, Netanyahu worked on the Israeli side of a massive nuclear weapons technology smuggling ring targeting the United States about the same time as Abutalebi was involved in the hostage crisis. Testimony from convicted smuggler Richard Kelly Smyth, who met often with Netanyahu while he worked at the Heli Trading smuggling node in Israel, details how 800 dual-use krytrons, used as nuclear weapons triggers, were smuggled to Israel from the United States. According to FBI files, Netanyahu’s active period in the smuggling ring appears to have occurred in the late 1970’s-early 1980’s.

According to other FBI files released under a Mandatory Declassification Review on February 28, 2014 (PDF), Netanyahu remained on the FBI’s counterintelligence radar “due to recent activities involving the Israeli embassy in Washington D.C.” in 1985. “Recent activities” might have been a reference to Israeli Minister of Economics Dan Halpern passing stolen trade secrets on 70 American industries opposed to trade concessions to AIPAC in 1984. An FBI informant who had “provided reliable information in the past” advised that “Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations…” was involved in something of high counterintelligence interest to the FBI.

Given the proposed standard of evidence for visa denial, that a person “has been found to have engaged in espionage activities or a terrorist activity against the United States and poses a threat to United States national security interests,” available FBI files Netanyahu’s act of proliferation would seem to easily qualify the Prime Minister for permanent banning from the UN alongside Abutalebi.

However, a leading indicator that such a ban would not be universally enforced is the current US treatment of Netanyahu’s smuggling confederate Arnon Milchan. On November 25, 2013 the Hollywood-based Israeli movie producer admitted on Israel’s Channel 2 Television to having masterminded the establishment of 30 weapons smuggling front companies – which would have included Heli Trading where Netanyahu worked – as a top Israeli spy dedicated to acquiring nuclear weapons technology and material. Milchan’s Huntington Beach based Milco not only shipped the 800 krytrons but also export-prohibited gyroscopes, neutron generators, high-speed oscilloscopes, and computerized flight control systems. Section 212(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (I.N.A.) is unequivocal on the grounds for inadmissibility to the United States. Obtaining a visa for repeatedly entering the United States under the false pretense of being only an investor producing movies while admittedly operating a global arms smuggling network and failing to register with the Justice Department as a foreign agent are both grounds for stripping Milchan’s US visa and immediately deporting him.

That no US enforcement agency will ever properly enforce such new – or old – visa policies if the country involved is Israel became obvious on March 12, 2014. Rather than nab Milchan when they knew he would be home – Milchan fled to Israel when the krytron case first unfolded – US Federal agents instead held up traffic in Malibu for hours to facilitate the confessed Israeli spy’s star-studded private party for Benjamin Netanyahu.

Grant F. Smith is the author of America’s Defense Line: The Justice Department’s Battle to Register the Israel Lobby as Agents of a Foreign Government. He currently serves as director of research at the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy in Washington (IRmep), D.C. Read other articles by Grant, or visit Grant’s website.