The arrest of 84-year old Ben-Ami Kadish by the FBI for espionage allegedly committed in the early 1980’s has been in the news for several days.
Kadish, a dual citizen of Israel and the US, is said to have served in the British and US military in WWII and in the Hagana during the War of Independence.
He was working for the US Army’s Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey as a mechanical engineer between 1979-1985, when he is accused of having copied secret documents for Israeli intelligence. Supposedly this included information on nuclear weapons, modified F-15 fighters sold to Saudi Arabia, and the Patriot missile defense system.
According to prosecutors, he could face life imprisonment or even the death penalty.
Naturally the connection to the Jonathan Pollard case has been raised. Both offenses were said to have been committed at about the same time, and both Pollard and Kadish seem to have been ‘idealists':
A criminal complaint said Kadish confessed to FBI agents on Sunday that he had given the Israeli [agent] between 50 and 100 classified documents and accepted no cash in return, only small gifts and occasional dinners for him and his family.
Kadish admitted to the charges in court, saying that he wanted to help Israel. — Jerusalem Post
The most interesting question raised by all this is “why has Kadish only been arrested now?” After all, the alleged crimes took place more than 23 years ago. If the FBI recently obtained new information, where did it come from?
Debka suggests that the information is not new:
The material put before the court indicates that the federal authorities and CIA had long been aware that the Connecticut-born military engineer was passing classified documents to the Israeli science attaché at the New York consulate before his retirement at least 18 years ago.
If this is so, then why arrest Kadish now? Several possibilities come to mind:
The connection with Jonathan Pollard. Efforts are being made to free Pollard before President Bush leaves office, and another spy scandal would do serious damage. We know that there are those in the US government and CIA very strongly committed to keeping Pollard imprisoned for life.
Pollard’s fate (he is in his 23rd year of a life sentence, imposed when the Government reneged on a plea bargain) indicates that there is special treatment reserved for Jewish spies for Israel. No one else has ever received such a sentence for spying for an ally in peacetime, and even those who spied for enemies almost always got lighter sentences (Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen are exceptions).
A desire to damage the US-Israel relationship. The trial of AIPAC staffers Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman for giving national security information to Israel is about to begin. The Government’s case is remarkably weak and one can argue that the defendants were victims of entrapment. I’ve speculated that this case is part of an attempt on the part of anti-Israel elements to weaken AIPAC and Jewish influence in general, so as to make it easier to move US policy in a pro-Arab direction. The Kadish case supports the “dual loyalty” argument.
Further details will certainly come out in the near future.