WASHINGTON (JTA) — Russian spies sought information during the 2016 election on leaders of two major Jewish groups, the Anti-Defamation League and the National Council of Jewish Women, a report said.
BuzzFeed reported Thursday that the Russian financial crimes agency sought the information under the auspices of a joint U.S.-Russia effort to track down terrorist financing.
According to the report, “in the final year of the Obama administration…Russian agents ostensibly trying to track ISIS instead pressed their American counterparts for private financial documents on at least two dozen dissidents, academics, private investigators, and American citizens” they apparently considered Russia’s enemies.
It’s not clear from the report whether officials of the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Terrorist Financing provided the Russians with the information on the ADL and NCJW executives. Another Treasury agency, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, raised alarms because the Treasury officials who were dealing with the Russians agreed to send information to Gmail and Hotmail accounts the Russians had set up, as opposed to established secure networks.
The Russian spies also sought information on the Ziff brothers, investors and sons to William Ziff, the well-known Jewish publisher, because some of their actions angered Russia. The same year, a Russian lawyer offered the presidential candidate Donald Trump “dirt” connecting the Ziffs to Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee who ultimately was defeated by Trump in the general election.
Treasury would not comment to BuzzFeed beyond saying that the allegations had been reported to the Inspector General. BuzzFeed reviewed documents related to the email exchanges.
JTA has asked ADL and NCJW for comment. “These reports are the first we have heard of this action,” an ADL spokesman said. “We are reaching out to officials at the Treasury Department to learn more about this incident.”
“NCJW is deeply concerned by the allegations raised by BuzzFeed and will cooperate with any and all investigations,” the group’s director, Nancy Kaufman, said. “We learned about these reports from BuzzFeed journalists and are seeking more information from federal authorities.”