Such is the degree of America's blindness to Israel's espionage activities in the United States.
Had this occurred in the USSR during the Cold War, diplomats would have been declared persona non grata. Even when long-term American ally France was caught in commercial espionage, the public repercussions were greater.
The silence about this case of Israeli espionage was so deafening that even The Jerusalem Post noted: "The American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) seems to be breathing a sigh of relief and is expecting Washington to go about business as usual."
And, in fact, that is what has happened. AIPAC, the Israeli lobbying organisation alleged to have taken the documents from Franklin, is holding a conference on 22-24 May 2005 and politicians of every political stripe will be speaking to assure the Israelis that they remain solidly behind them.
Full support to Israel
In fact, this may be the only time in Washington that philosophically different politicians such as Nancy Pelosi and Bill Frist may be seen on the same stage. Even potential American presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will be speaking to AIPAC.
This is the same old story: Israel commits an act of espionage against the US, a little rumble is heard, and then all factions of the American political spectrum fall in step behind Israel.
They may disagree on economic policy, defence policy, foreign policy and education, but they all agree on giving full support to Israel.
Ironically, one of the conference subjects - How would the world change if Iran had a nuclear bomb? - should be an embarrassment to American politicians since the top secret information allegedly given by Franklin to AIPAC dealt with Iran's nuclear programme and American responses to it, according to most accounts. Most politicians would be expected to want to stay away from the conference and AIPAC's scandal about its espionage activities in America.
The fact is, Israeli espionage has targeted America since the earliest days and its penetration of America is greater than anything that the USSR could have envisioned during the worst days of the Cold War.
In some cases, it has been directed from the Israeli prime minister's office; in other cases, it is the activity of an intelligence organisation that, in the words of a former Mossad agent, Victor Ostrovsky, is, "plotting on its own behalf; and for petty, self-serving reasons, it has set the nation on a collision course with all-out war".
The first, and in the long term the most damaging, infiltration of America was the Israeli campaign to steal American nuclear secrets. Even before Israel was established, Jewish nuclear scientists working on the Manhattan Project were sending nuclear secrets to the fledgling Israeli nuclear weapons project.
Even American neutron bomb designer Sam Cohen, a Jew himself, noted that it was an open secret that many nuclear scientists were giving nuclear secrets to the Israelis without fear of being punished.
Unfortunately, for America, that was not the end of Israeli espionage against American targets. In many cases, Israeli intelligence operations have intentionally taken actions that have hurt America.
One event, which has never been revealed before, was an Israeli intelligence operation against Hughes Aircraft in the late 1980s.
During a Paris Air Show, Hughes Aircraft had been photographing a Soviet MiG aircraft with a secret infrared detector when it flamed out and crashed.
When Israeli intelligence heard of the infrared data, they quietly approached Hughes Aircraft and asked for a copy of it.
Hughes Aircraft officials refused, saying that they were going to give it to the US government, so the air force could find out the weaknesses of the front-line Soviet fighter.
Rather than find out about the fighter's weaknesses through its official Defence Department contacts, Israeli intelligence broke into Hughes Aircraft's offices and stole the original data tape.
Another Israeli activity that damaged America and yet received little attention was the Israeli connection with the assassination of Orlando Letelier, a former minister in the Marxist Chilean government.
While the CIA was accused, it was actually part of a deal between Chile and Israel, which allowed the Israelis to gain access to the French Exocet missile. Israel was concerned that Arab countries would buy them and they were anxious to find a way to counter them.
France had embargoed sales to Israel and they were not willing to give the Israelis the data so they could counter them.
However, Chile had Exocets and was willing to deal with Israel, because Israel had experience in assassinating opponents throughout the world. Although Israeli agents were not used, Mossad technology was critical to the bombing.
Information for cash
Israel's growing cooperation with China is a potentially troubling fact that can cause instability in Asia. Israeli contacts with China began in the 1970s as both countries were concerned about the Soviet threat.
However, the relationship has continued long after the Cold War ended, in part because China had money and needed American high technology, and Israel had access to American technology and needed money.
There is no better example of how Israel was willing to sell anything for hard currency than its sale of Patriot technology to the Chinese so they could find ways to counter this anti-missile system.
In 1992, the American intelligence community was aghast to learn that Israel had sold Patriot technology to China in return for cash and information about missiles China was trying to sell to Syria, Pakistan and Iran.
The information had been gathered from the Patriot missiles sent to Israel to protect them during the 1991 war against Iraq and technology sent to Israel so it could develop its own ABM, the Arrow Missile.
Although the US made little of the incident, defence officials were concerned. With the technology and software of the Patriot missile, China learned how the US intercepted incoming missiles and separated decoys from real warheads.
If the US decides to intervene in any future conflict over Taiwan, the same Chinese missiles could attack US ships or even threaten American cities. With this record of blatantly compromising American national interests, why does the US ignore Israeli activities?
The fact is that both the US and Israel are to blame. Israel has developed an attitude that it is beyond reproach - any action that could be seen as protecting Israel in the short run is acceptable.
This is compounded by an intelligence community that is out of control. Mossad agents do not answer to anyone outside the intelligence community. Consequently, as long as the actions meet the needs of the intelligence community, no one is called to account.
However, America has much to answer for for ignoring Israeli activities. The American mentality and the pro-Israeli media are prone to paint Israel as a victim and the Arab nations as the aggressors in the Middle East. As a result, the average American is willing to turn a blind eye to Israeli espionage on the grounds that it helps an American friend.
This blindness to both the practicality of national security interests and political reality can only damage the United States in the long run. Not only has Israel damaged American national interests with its unrestrained espionage, but it is laying the foundations for a potential nuclear threat because of its willingness to sell critical defence technology to China.
Given these facts, it is troubling that Negroponte is willing to sit with Israelis and tell them that they are the best of allies.
As for AIPAC, it cannot hide any more behind its initial claims that "AIPAC employees have always acted legally, properly, and appropriately". If this is so, why then fire the two individuals implicated in the FBI spy investigation?
Despite the impression AIPAC would like to convey during its annual convention that it is business as usual, showcasing its political muscle by parading what Ralph Nader labelled "Israeli puppets in the White House and the Congress", there are growing voices calling on AIPAC to register as a foreign agent and lose its tax exempt status.
AIPAC may continue to wish to ride on its reputation as a formidable political machine in Washington on behalf of Israel, but it must come to terms with the ever-increasing signs reflected in public opinion polls such as that of Zogby International, indicating that 61% of participants agreed that AIPAC should register as a foreign agent.
Mounzer Sleiman, PhD, is an independent political-military analyst and expert in US national security affairs, based in the Washington DC area.
The opinions expressed here are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of this web site.
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