American arrested as nuclear spy for Israel
By Randall Mikkelsen
U.S. authorities arrested an 84-year-old American on Tuesday suspected of giving Israel secrets on nuclear weapons, fighter jets and missiles in the 1980s in a case with links to imprisoned spy Jonathan Pollard.
Ben-Ami Kadish acknowledged his spying in FBI interviews and said he acted out of a belief he was helping Israel, according to court documents.
Kadish was accused of reporting to an Israeli government handler who was also a main contact for Pollard, an American citizen serving a life term on a 1985 charge of spying for Israel.
Kadish's arrest indicates that spying revealed by the Pollard case, still an irritant in the close U.S. alliance with Israel, may have spread wider than previously acknowledged. "It was bigger than we thought, and they hid it well," said former U.S. Attorney Joseph diGenova, who prosecuted the Pollard case.
State Department spokesman Tom Casey said, "We will be informing the Israelis of this action ... 20-plus years ago during the Pollard case we noted that this was not the kind of behavior we would expect from friends and allies and that would remain the case today."
Kadish was arrested in New Jersey on a four-count complaint of conspiracy and espionage and was scheduled to make an initial appearance on Tuesday afternoon at U.S. District Court in New York, authorities said.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Arye Mekel, asked about the arrest, said: "We know nothing about it. We heard it from the media."
Kadish's lawyer, Bruce Goldstein, did not immediately return a call for comment.
Pollard, accused of passing on large quantities of classified materials, pleaded guilty in 1986. Israel granted him citizenship in 1996 and acknowledged in 1998 the former U.S. Navy intelligence analyst was one of its spies. Israel has unsuccessfully sought Pollard's release.
Kadish is a Connecticut-born U.S. citizen who worked as a mechanical engineer at the U.S. Army's Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center at the Picatinny Arsenal in Dover, New Jersey.
His spying lasted roughly from 1979 to 1985, and his contact with the unidentified Israeli handler continued until March of this year, the federal complaint against him said. Based on circumstances of the case, DiGenova identified Kadish's contact as Yosef Yagur, who has been linked in court documents to the Pollard case. A Justice Department spokesman said he could not confirm that.
The complaint cited Kadish as saying that, unlike Pollard, he received no money from the Israelis, just small gifts and restaurant meals.
Kadish, who had a security clearance, took 50 to 100 classified documents from the arsenal's library, the complaint said. He worked from a list provided by the handler, identified in court documents as "CC-1." The contact would then photograph the documents in Kadish's basement and Kadish would return them to the library, the complaint said.
It said one of the classified documents passed on by Kadish "contained information concerning nuclear weaponry." Israel is widely believed to have nuclear weapons but has never acknowledged it.
Another document obtained by Kadish related to "a major weapons system ... a modified version of an F-15 fighter jet that the United States had sold to another foreign country," the complaint said. It did not identify the country.
A third document contained information regarding the U.S. Patriot missile air defense system. The U.S. military first deployed the system in 1984, and Israel used the system to defend against Iraqi missiles in the 1991 Gulf war.
The complaint said Kadish maintained contact with CC-1, met him in Israel in 2004, and spoke with him by telephone on March 20 of this year, after his first FBI interview. It said the handler told him to lie to U.S. authorities: "Don't say anything ... What happened 25 years ago? You don't remember anything," the handler was quoted as saying.
The complaint said the handler worked for the Israeli government as consul for science affairs at the Israeli Consulate General in New York from 1980 to November 1985.
During the late 1970s, he worked for what was known as Israeli Aircraft Industries, an Israeli government contractor, the complaint said. It said the handler left the United States when Pollard was arrested and had not returned.
The details fit Yagur's history. A woman who identified herself as Yagur's wife, when reached by telephone in Israel, said: "We're not speaking to journalists. Goodbye."
(Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed, Christine Kearney in New York and Dan Williams in Jerusalem; Editing by Patricia Wilson and Peter Cooney)