The expressions of shock and indignation that accompanied Edward Snowden’s revelations that the United States uses signal intelligence assets to spy on its allies were more than a little disingenuous. Everybody knows that everybody spies on everybody. If Germany’s spy agencies can, they are most certainly listening to the cellphones of friendly leaders from Washington to Paris. Allies routinely use signals intelligence, and human intelligence and everything in between to uncover information that their allies seek to keep from them.
In the case of the US and Israel, US government agencies have been involved not merely in spying against Israel, but in bids to undermine American public support for Israel almost since the establishment of the Jewish state.
According to a new history of the CIA’s involvement in the Middle East, America’s Great Game, reviewed this week in The Wall Street Journal, in 1951 Kermit Roosevelt, the CIA’s operations chief in the Middle East set up a fake anti-Israel lobby in Washington called American Friends of the Middle East. Its job was to weaken popular support for the Jewish state. The CIA’s anti-Israel front group operated for 16 years, until the fact that it was a CIA front group was exposed in 1967 by the far-left Ramparts magazine.
And this brings us to Jonathan Pollard, the American Jewish naval intelligence analyst who is now serving the 28th year of his life sentence for transferring classified materials to Israel.
Snowden’s revelations and the story of the CIA’s anti-Israel front group in Washington make clear that US indignation over Israel’s fielding of an agent in Washington was equal parts self-righteousness and hypocrisy. There was nothing extraordinary in Israel’s efforts to gain information that its American ally didn’t wish to share with it. Allies spy on each other. And they use sympathetic locals to achieve their ends. South Korean Americans have been caught spying for South Korea. Taiwanese Americans have been caught spying for Taiwan, and so on.
US prosecutors prosecuted, and US judges convicted these agents of friendly countries for their criminal activities. The average prison term meted out to such agents of friendly governments runs from four to seven years. Their average time served in prison is two to four years.
Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, where this article first appeared.
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