The espionage charges leveled against American scientist Stewart David Nozette raise more questions than they answer; and those questions should trouble, and perhaps even outrage, the American Jewish community.
The affidavit of FBI agent Leslie Martell, made public last month, lays out the factual underpinning for the complaint. It seems that Nozette was initially targeted because he boasted to friends that if he was threatened with jail (because of an unrelated fraud matter) he would flee to India or Israel. The FBI then hatched a sting operation, during which agents posed as Mossad agents to lure the scientist into spying for Israel.
The affidavit confirms what many know and have been worried about for years: the dirty little secret belief within certain elements in the law enforcement and counter-intelligence communities that American Jews inherently harbor dual loyalties, that they possess some sort of a genetic defect that plagues only them. This nasty canard — a not-so-subtle form of anti-Semitism — has ruined, stymied and prevented careers in government service of countless loyal and well-qualified Americans.
Having represented government officials who have fallen prey to the mentality that Jews cannot be fully trusted, I know the depths to which such views are held. My concern was reinforced when I was interviewed by FBI agents in connection with the ill-conceived and now dismissed "spy" case brought against two former employees of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee.
I was shocked by how little the agents knew or understood about lobbying and the search for information, whether by lobbyists, scholars, journalists, the Congress or even members of the same executive branch. They were clueless.
What remains most disturbing to me is the clear FBI "obsession" with the Mossad and its perceived diabolical influence over the Jewish community.
That mindset comes across loud and clear in the FBI affidavit. Consider: Nozette was given high security clearances while consulting for and providing information to an aerospace company wholly owned by the government of Israel — believed to be Israel Aerospace Industries, a highly visible entity with openly close ties to the Pentagon.
That appears to be Nozette's only tie to Israel, a connection that was above board and obviously known to the government from the outset. But it is the ensuing sting operation that unmasks the dual loyalty bugaboo. Once Nozette fell under suspicion — the only suggested reason was that in January 2009 he had traveled to another country (not Israel) with two computer "thumb" drives, but returned without them — the FBI set up the sting to see if they could lure the scientist into selling secrets.
Although there is nothing to reveal an ideological connection to the Jewish state, FBI agents, clearly preying on his heritage, contacted and met with Nozette. They pretended to be Mossad agents to see if he would be willing to provide them with classified information. The vehicle chosen for the operation — which surely smells of entrapment — was Israel, not China, or India, where he had told friends he would flee if he got into hot water.
The affidavit also gratuitously includes comments by Nozette about his parents being Jewish, his presumed right of return and his desire to secure an Israeli passport, and that he had been expecting to hear from the Mossad, suggesting that it is just a matter of time before Jews with sensitive information get the call from their real masters.
All of this, of course, provides ammunition to those eager to denigrate Israel and cast sinister clouds over its American supporters. Indeed, headline after headline created the false impression, reflecting the emphasis by the FBI, that yet another disloyal Jew was caught spying for Israel, even though that was not even remotely the case.
But the damage had been done, just as the FBI and Justice Department knew it would be.
Israeli officials have insisted that they knew nothing of the Nozette matter beforehand. And, in an obscure one sentence footnote, the FBI affidavit notes that Israel did not violate any U.S. laws.
One would hope that leaders of the Jewish community raise some hell, and not show the timidity which, unfortunately, characterized many responses to the AIPAC case involving Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman.
As the Fort Hood shooting of 13 people, allegedly by a Muslim, has shown us, we know how concerned the Obama administration is about perpetuating stereotypes. We Jews are not — and must not behave as though we are — guests in our own country.
Neal M. Sher, a New York attorney, previously served as the director of the Office of Special Investigations in the Justice Department and as the executive director of AIPAC.