Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Spy v. Spy?

Our Shavuot holiday was inspiring but largely uneventful. Having experienced many nights of less than optimal sleep over the past two months, the sleep achieved during the holiday, though hardly the best I have ever known, was quite welcome. With my schedule for the coming month, there is little reason to expect a significant number of really good sleep nights for that period.

The news story that inspired this posting is the sentencing of admitted spy Ben-Ami Kadish, who was fined but avoided jail time. Judge Pauley wonders, as do I, why it took Uncle Sam 23 years to bring charges. Assistant U.S. Attorney Iris Lan would have Judge Pauley believe that it took the FBI that long "to put all the pieces together." But His Honor didn't buy it, and neither do I.

The case is notable mostly because the Israeli information handler dealt with by Kadish was the same one who handled Jonathan Pollard.

My comments, in no particular order:

A. Yes, Israel does spy on the United States. And the United States similarly spies on Israel.

B. Knowing what I know about military procedures relating to classified information, and about human nature in general, there is only a small, limited set of circumstances under which one might conceivably be involved in espionage on a one- or two-shot basis. Because once you begin, your handler and/or some party associated with your handler thereafter owns you, and you must keep on playing the game. I don't like having to answer to anyone, so I have always taken pains to stay far from anything resembling espionage.

C. One of the conditions of that aforementioned small, limited set of circumstances is that the temporary spy must accept no money or other commodities of value for his or her services. Quite curiously, the "facts" as agreed to by Kadish and the U.S. Attorney specifically provide that Kadish neither requested nor received anything of value for his services.

D. Yet, according to the criminal Complaint, Kadish remained in telephone and e-mail contact with his handler up until the FBI began questioning Kadish in 2008.

E. Jonathan Pollard, beyond all doubt, was provided with cash and other goods and perquisites for his efforts. It certainly was far, far more than his out-of-pocket cab fare, telephone calls and photocopy expenses.

F. More to the point, there were, and are, persistent rumors that Pollard had customers other than Israel. If this is true, then it would go very far towards explaining why the U.S. government dealt with Pollard in a manner as harsh as it did, and why Israel has been less than enthusiastic about pressuring the United States for Pollard's release.

G. When Kadish began providing documents in 1979 or before, there still was this entity known as the Soviet Union. At the time, the conflict between Israel and the Arabs was a proxy war between the USA and the Soviet Union, during which Israel used American weaponry against the Soviet weaponry used by the Arab states. More importantly, Israel, on its own and in conjunction with the United States Department of Defense, made modifications and improvements to the American weapons, to the benefit of both Israel and the United States.

H. As Judge Pauley surely suspects, there is much, much more to the Kadish story than the government is disclosing. And the obvious use of the bringing of charges in 2008, after 23 years, as a lever to pressure Israel, does not account for the whole story. I, for one, do not have sufficient information to do anything more than engage in speculative guessing as to what these other factors might be.

I. Judge Pauley inquired of Kadish's attorney as to Kadish's source of livelihood. The only answer given was that Kadish had some investments. Might there be a tax angle to this all? As a tax attorney, I can think of all sorts of taxation issues.

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