WASHINGTON, Oct. 29 (JTA) — A Jewish reserve officer says the U.S. Army stripped him of his security clearance and forced him to give up command of an intelligence unit because of his ties to Israel.
Maj. Shawn Pine, commander of the 300th Military Intelligence Company of Austin, Texas, holds dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship and received his top security clearance in 1990 — until it was revoked this summer.
While Pine says the reasons are rooted in anti-Semitism, the army says it’s just implementing a simple rules change.
Pine’s story, which first appeared in the Jerusalem Post, brings up concerns of heightened sensitivity in the U.S. armed forces to officers with Israel connections.
Pine was born in the United States and immigrated to Israel with his family in the late 1970s. Like other Israeli citizens, he entered the Israel Defense Force, serving in the elite Golani Brigade.
After his discharge, Pine returned to the United States to attend Georgetown University. He later chose a military career and served nine years as an officer in the U.S. Army.
In 1995, Pine returned to Israel to study international relations at the Hebrew University, simultaneously doing his occasional IDF reserve duty.
Pine says he discussed his Israel connection with the U.S. Army when his security clearance came up for a routine update. He even agreed to the unusual step of taking a polygraph test, Pine says, saying it seemed fair because he had “a lot of interaction with Israel.”
But now Pine says his career is ruined, as it’s unlikely that private companies that get government contracts for security-related work would hire him without a security clearance.
Pine claims there is a “blatant” connection between his case and that of Lt. Col. Jeremiah Mattysse, a senior intelligence officer who converted to Judaism and went AWOL in Israel last year. There was speculation that Mattysse had passed on military intelligence to the Jewish state, but he eventually was cleared.
Pine was contacted about his security clearance update only a month after the Mattysse incident.
“They’re looking for Jewish officers,” he said.
The Army Reserves says it is implementing new rules that prevent anyone who holds dual citizenship from having top security clearance.
Pine is “not the only one caught up in the rules change,” said Joe Hanley, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Reserve Command.
“This is not a punitive action,” agreed Steve Stromvall, another spokesman.
A research associate at the Ariel Center for Policy Research in Israel, Pine has published many articles on military and strategic affairs in the Middle East. His writings have appeared in Israel Affairs, The International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence and the Jerusalem Post.
The Anti-Defamation League’s Houston office said it had been contacted by Pine and is investigating the case.
Jewish sensitivity to accusations of dual loyalty has increased since the infamous case of Jonathan Pollard.
A former analyst for U.S. Navy intelligence, Pollard was convicted of espionage in 1985 for passing secret U.S. military information to Israel, and was sentenced to life in prison.
Anti-Israel feelings may be “endemic” in the U.S. Army’s intelligence community, Pine believes.
“When they see a Jew, they see a Jonathan Pollard,” he said.
There is no doubt that certain quarters of the U.S. intelligence community harbor an underlying suspicion of Jews with connections to Israel, attorney Neal Sher said.
Sher represented former intelligence officer Adam Ciralsky, who charged that the CIA placed him on leave in 1997 because of his ties with Israel. Ciralsky sued the CIA last year, claiming that rampant anti-Semitism within the agency destroyed his career.
Sher said he does not know the details of Pine’s case, but said it is reasonable that anti-Semitism and anti-Israel animus could have played a role.
“The organized Jewish community should take this very seriously,” he said.