WASHINGTON (Feb. 19)
A decade after Jonathan Pollard was sentenced to life in prison for spying for Israel, a new FBI investigation into the activities of another American Jew has hit a raw nerve among Israeli and Jewish officials.
Federal officials on Saturday searched the home of Army engineer David Tenenbaum, a 39-year-old Detroit-area Jewish resident, after he said that he had inadvertently shared classified documents with Israeli military officials.
Israeli officials here were quick to say that this case is different from that of Pollard, the former Navy analyst whose case rocked U.S.-Israeli relations and whose life sentence became a cause celebre in the American Jewish community.
Israeli officials, who said there has been no official contact with the United States on the matter, warned that Israeli personnel stationed in the United States should only accept classified information through official channels.
According to an affidavit filed by the FBI last Friday at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, “Tenenbaum admitted to divulging non-releasable classified information to every Israeli Liaison Officer (ILO) assigned to TACOM over the last 10 years.”
Tenenbaum worked at TACOM, which refers to the U.S. Army Tank Automotive and Armaments Command, located north of Detroit. It designs and maintains the fleet of vehicles for the U.S. Army.
After a routine polygraph test he took last week as part of a security- clearance upgrade, Tenenbaum told investigators that he gave classified information on Patriot missiles countermeasures, Bradley tanks and various U.S. Army vehicles to Israelis assigned to work with the U.S. Army.
Specifically, Tenenbaum told investigators, he gave classified information to Dr. Reuven Granot, scientific deputy director of the Israeli Ministry of Defense, according to the affidavit.
Jewish organizational officials, unaware of the investigation until informed by a reporter late Wednesday afternoon, expressed concern and caution.
“It’s a disturbing story. We’re waiting to hear the details,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
“We can’t jump to any conclusions,” he added.
As of Wednesday afternoon, “no Israeli authority has been approached by the U.S. government on this issue,” said Gadi Baltiansky, press spokesman at the Israeli Embassy in Washington.
At the same time, Baltiansky pledged “full cooperation on the matter” if the United States seeks Israeli assistance.
“Israeli defense personnel serving in the United States are given the most clear and categorical instructions forbidding them from receiving classified information except through the official channels established between the two countries,” Baltiansky said.
The FBI has not filed any criminal charges in the case.
The affidavit, necessary to obtain a search warrant, said Tenenbaum could be charged with gathering and transmitting defense information, gathering and delivering information to aid a foreign government and disclosing classified information.
These federal charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
No one answered the phone Wednesday at Tenenbaum’s home in the Detroit suburbs.
Wilbert Simkovitz, a retired engineer from TACOM, told the Detroit Jewish News, “We get intelligence from the Israelis, too. It’s not a one-way street,”
“If he did anything it was probably inadvertent,” Simkovitz said of Tenenbaum.
Alfred Goldstein, also a retired engineer from TACOM, told the Detroit Jewish News that most of the work done at TACOM is not highly sensitive.
Goldstein, a mechanical engineer who said he did not know Tenenbaum, said there were three to five Israeli representatives at the tank command on a rotating basis.
FBI officials in Detroit would not say whether their search of Tenenbaum’s home yielded any results. According to the affidavit, FBI agents were looking for documents and computer files related to classified material.