At Truthout, Richard Silverstein has a fascinating post describing his relationship with Shamai Leibowitz, the former FBI translator who pled guilty to charges of leaking U.S. wire-taps of the Israeli embassy. Silverstein says he and Leibowitz decided to go public in 2009 because they were disturbed by the Gaza conflict and concerned that Israel was planning to attack Iran.
In this excerpt, read the most disturbing substance of the taps: Israel’s effort to manipulate the American political discourse in the very heart of the US political process, Congress and the presidential campaign. And Israel’s coordination of the Gaza onslaught so that it would end before Obama took office.
Note also the glancing reference to Jane Harman. (I’m still waiting for the full story on Harman‘s talks with Haim Saban)(hat tip Paul Mutter).
[Liebowitz and I] decided to go forward, but in what we felt was a discreet, controlled way. I would leak portions of the transcripts in a format designed to conceal the source and the specific identity of those individuals overheard in the surveillance tapes. I did this for about a month and published about five posts, including one in The Guardian UK’s Comment is Free.
The material published included references to Israeli diplomats briefing President-elect Obama on Operation Cast Lead while the war was being prosecuted, presumably in an effort to persuade him of the importance of continuing it, despite the pressure the incoming president was under to speak out against it. They revealed private, late-night meetings between the Israeli ambassador and a key Obama operative at which they presumably discussed how and whether the war would end in relation to the president-elect’s upcoming inauguration. Note that the war ended on January 18, and Obama was inaugurated on January 20. I’m certain this was no accident, but rather a carefully choreographed deal between the two sides. Obama never criticized the war publicly. Now we know why.
I noted that an Israeli diplomat ghost wrote some or all of a Boston Herald op-ed attacking Iran, to which a prominent Jewish attorney and community leader signed his name. In Minneapolis, the local Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) briefed the Chicago Israeli Consulate on the travel schedule and a meeting it held with Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim-American elected to Congress. Ellison, according to the tapes, was viewed as hostile to Israeli interests. In fact, the JCRC official told the Israeli diplomat that Ellison had just led a local trade delegation to Saudi Arabia (a big no-no) and was planning to join Rep. Brian Baird (D-Washington) in a fact-finding mission to Gaza in the aftermath of the war. This trip, too. was viewed with alarm by both parties in the transcripts.
“The JCRC director conceded implicitly in The American Jewish World that he monitored Ellison and reported to the consulate:
‘As part of our work fostering a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, the JCRC communicates from time to time with the Consul General’s office in Chicago … Accordingly, the JCRC’s conversations with the Consul General’s office have included discussions about members of Minnesota’s Congressional delegation, including Representative Ellison.'”
In Texas, a member of Congress held a meeting with a prominent Jewish campaign donor and consular official to discuss ways of advancing Israel’s legislative campaign against Iran, including punitive sanctions and alarming the US public with the dangers posed by that country and its supposed effort to produce a nuclear weapon.
In September 2008, before one of the presidential debates, an Israeli operative attempted unsuccessfully to meet with a debate panelist in order to plant a question about war against Iran: Would the candidates take military action against that country or accept a nuclear-armed Iran? The Israelis did NOT want any question that asked what the candidates might do if Israel attacked Iran.
Israeli diplomats were heard touting pro-Israel members of Congress and bad mouthing those viewed as hostile. There were tutorials in cultivation of members. These are excerpts of a post I wrote on April 28, 2009, detailing the methods and goals of such cultivation:
… Last month, Israeli diplomats in Jerusalem, Chicago and Washington made a series of calls to review the status of relationships with the Midwest’s members of Congress. Senior diplomats from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs explained to Israeli diplomatic personnel that the purpose of getting to know these elected officials was to advance Israel’s agenda in Congress.
Israeli diplomats are most interested in members of Congress who serve on the intelligence, defense, foreign affairs and appropriations committees since those deal with issues of most concern to Israel. This explains peripherally, why they would devote so much time and attention to cultivating Jane Harman, since she stood to become chair of the House intelligence committee if Pelosi had agreed to retain her on the committee (which she didn’t).
The Israeli officials … were annoyed at their inability to gain access to Sen. Russell Feingold despite the fact that his sister is a rabbi and has visited Israel. Note that a trip to Israel in their view is like a tetanus inoculation bestowing excellent pro-Israel health and antibodies against “pro-Arab propaganda.”
When a diplomat described Rep. David Obey as not a great friend of Israel and borderline hostile, the DC embassy representative reminded his staff that they could schedule meetings with staff when Congress members are not available (which presumably would positively influence their boss).
… The Israelis have noted that Sen. John Thune introduced anti-Iran legislation in the last session and that Rep. Mark Kirk planned to introduce new punitive legislation targeting that country. The Israelis sang the praises of Sen. Sam Brownback, who planned a conference that would exert economic pressure on Iran. The D.C. embassy plans to follow up with him to encourage his plans.
Sen. Clare McCaskill is a particular focus of the Israelis because she is a confidant of the president and a member of the armed services and homeland security committees. The Israelis plan to establish close relations with McCaskill and her staff. Another Missouri legislator, Russ Carnahan, receives no such royal treatment. He is viewed, like Obey, as not friendly to Israel. Why? Because during a meeting with him, he highlighted to the Israeli representative his sympathy for the poor people of Gaza. The reason for this sympathy in the eyes of the Israelis? The legislator was poisoned by information from the Arab lobby.
… One Israeli diplomat said that members of the St. Louis Jewish community conveyed their “expectations” to Carnahan and reminded him on which side his bread was buttered.
Israeli diplomatic staff have noted a problematic relationship with two Minnesota representatives, Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum. Though they consider Ellison, a Muslim, “not anti-Israel,” they noted he was quite attentive to the Arab lobby. Clearly they were keeping a close eye on Ellison’s schedule as they knew he was receiving an UNWRA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East] briefing that very day about conditions in Gaza … The Israelis noted with displeasure that Ellison has teamed up with Washington State Rep. Brian Baird (the two visited Gaza together) …
… The Israelis are monitoring a new Indiana representative Andre Carson who like Ellison is Muslim. But it seems they’re playing “good Muslim, bad Muslim,” as Carson, they noted, hasn’t yet taken any “radical” positions and therefore might serve as a counter-weight to “bad Muslim” Ellison.
In the process of publishing this material, the Israelis became aware that their security was breached. They expressed concern about it, considered various possibilities for the origin of the leak (a mole was one theory), but continued their conversations. Eventually, Shamai thought it wasn’t a good idea to continue with our project as he didn’t wish to compromise the FBI investigation any more than necessary. He asked me to destroy the files I had, which I did by burning them.