When afraid, people are more easily manipulated. So Aramica was alarmed to hear of an unexpected outside party that may be operating amid this tense climate.
A former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer claims that Mossad (Israel’s secret service) agents have been visiting Arabs and Muslims in New York and New Jersey, posing as U.S. intelligence agents to gain their cooperation.
Citing unnamed “sources in the counterintelligence community,” Philip Giraldi made the claims in an article in The American Conservative magazine published on August 23, 2010.
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), a major Arab American civil rights group, warned that the illegal practice, if true, could make it very hard for bona fide U.S. federal agents to win the trust of Muslims and Arab Americans.
That could undermine years of efforts by the FBI and other federal agencies to develop sources among Muslims and Arab Americans, whom it considers important allies in the fight against terrorism in the U.S. and abroad.
The Israeli embassy has in the past denied Mossad activities on U.S. soil. An Israeli Embassy spokesman, who did not wash to be identified, told Aramica the Embassy had no comment.
Giraldi is now an intelligence analyst with the firm Cannistraro Associates. He also heads the Council for the National Interest, a pro-Palestine lobby group, and he was foreign policy advisor to Congressman Ron Paul (D-TX) during his failed run for the U.S. presidency in 2008.
According to Giraldi’s article, Israeli agents have ratcheted up their investigating of U.S. Muslims and Arabs due to the escalating tensions between Israel and Iran.
“There have been a number of cases reported to the FBI about Mossad officers who have approached leaders in Arab American communities and have falsely represented themselves as ‘U.S. intelligence,’” wrote Giraldi.
“Because few Muslims would assist an Israeli, this is done to increase the likelihood that the target will cooperate,” he explained.
Giraldi did not say when the exchanges took place or how many. Aramica’s calls to Giraldi at the Council for the National Interest were not returned.
According to Giraldi, the Mossad posers handled the exchanges “clumsily,” raising the suspicions of the approached Arab Americans, who reported the incidents to the FBI.
“All over the place”
FBI agents traced two of the Mossad back to the Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations in New York, where they were working under cover as consular officers, Giraldi wrote.
The Israeli Mission did not respond to requests for comment.
Bill Carter, an FBI spokesman, told Aramica: “We don’t comment on intelligence-related issues.” He deferred to the State Department, where a spokesman said he had no information on the matter.
The Washington Post journalist Jeff Stein, in the September 2 posting of his ‘SpyTalk’ column, quoted a second former CIA official who supported Giraldi’s account.
“Oh, sure, they do that,” Stein quoted the unnamed official as saying, “They’re all over the place.”
The ADC, the civil rights group, expressed “grave concern” over the claims.
“Such activity will have a negative impact on the trust between Arab and Muslim Americans with the U.S. Federal Government,” ADC leaders said.
Asked by Aramica if the ADC had received calls from Arab Americans about the problem, group legal director Abed A. Ayoub said: “We’ve had reports about FBI agents acting out of hand. Can we collate that with this? It’s hard to know.”
The group called on the U.S. federal government to investigate “any instances of individuals, including foreign nationals, falsely identifying themselves as a U.S. government official.”
Department of Justice spokesman Dean Boyd said it is the department’s policy not to comment on “whether an investigation may or may not be underway into a particular individual or entity.”
Israeli intelligence agents have been prosecuted by the U.S. before. Many readers will be familiar, for example, with the stories of convicted spies Jonathan Pollard, the Texas native jailed for life in 1987; and Ben Ami Kadish, the New Jersey resident sentenced in 2008 for spying in the 1980s.
The ADC also reminded people of their rights if approached for questioning (see sidebar). Among them: You have the right to remain silent; to have an attorney present; and to demand to see a warrant before agents enter your home.
Mr. Carter, the FBI spokesman, added that genuine FBI agents should identify themselves and show their credentials.
“If you suspect someone is posing as an FBI agent, call the FBI field office to verify their ID,” he said. The number for the New York field office is (212) 384 1000; the New Jersey field office can be reached at (973) 792 3000.
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