Intelligence: March 12, 2002


: The Paris-based newsletter WWW.Intelligence Online reported on 4 March that it had a draft report from the Drug Enforcement Administration, which said that 120 Israeli posing as art students were actually spies had been arrested or expelled and the inquiries - begun in February 2001 - were still continuing.

An unnamed Justice Department official admitted that authorities had made arrests in Dallas, Chicago, San Diego and in south Florida. The DEA report said that among U.S. sites apparently targeted was Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City.

The report was confirmed as authentic by DEA spokeswoman Rogene Waite in Washington on the 5th. Immigration and Naturalization Service spokesman Russ Bergeron described dozens of arrests since early 2001 but gave no exact figures.
A majority of these "students" questioned by U.S. investigators acknowledged having served in military intelligence, electronic signals interception or explosive ordnance units in the Israeli military. All were between 22 and 30, had recently completed their Israeli military service and one was related to a two-star Israeli general.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Yaffa Ben-Ari said it was "nonsense" that the students were spying on the United States. An unnamed FBI official noted there were no espionage charges filed against any of the individuals and that they had been deported. The Associated Press noted that when asked whether any spying activity occurred, the official repeated that no charges had been filed. 

On 5 March, the French daily newspaper Le Monde reported Intelligence Online's findings and added elements it said its reporters had uncovered. They claimed that the United States had broken up a huge Israeli spy ring that may have trailed suspected al Qaeda members in the United States without informing federal authorities. 

Le Monde claimed that at least five of the spies resided in Hollywood, Florida, where alleged hijacker Mohammad Atta and four accomplices in the attacks also lived. They also claimed that two Israelis lived in Fort Lauderdale, near the Delray Beach location where other hijackers temporarily resided. 

Reuters questioned an FBI spokesman about the Intelligence Online report on th 4th and he flatly called it a "bogus story": "There wasn't a spy ring." - Adam Geibel




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