CIA Official’s Televised Comments
Rabbi A. Shafran
Accusations of Religious Jews’ Involvement in Espionage Decried
Remarks by an unidentified “high level”official of the Central Intelligence Agency casting “religious Jews” as likely candidates for espionage on behalf of Israel have evoked astonishment and outrage among Orthodox Jews nationwide. The comments were broadcast Sunday night on the CBS television news program “60 Minutes”, when a CIA operative, his face shielded from view and his voice distorted, agreed with the assertion that his agency believes that “the Israeli government has a program of recruiting Americans who are religious Jews who go to Israel often to spy on the United States.”
The segment of the weekly program focused on the case of Adam Ciralsky, a 28-year-old lawyer with the CIA who has been suspended without pay, stripped of his top secret National Security Clearance and barred from setting foot in the agency. Mr. Ciralsky claims that assumptions of his untrustworthiness were made on the basis of his Jewish beliefs and associations. CIA records describe Mr. Ciralsky as a “rich Jewish” employee and refers to him and other “hard-line” Jews at the CIA who “think in terms of ‘us’ versus ‘them’,” references that, along with other agency comments, were later acknowledged by Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet as “insensitive, unprofessional and highly inappropriate.”
On Sunday night’s broadcast, the disguised agency official was asked whether it is “going too far to say that any religious Jew who has any kind of intelligence clearance is now suspect.” He responded: “I suspect that’s probably true.” And, pressed further about “documented instances” of U.S. citizens successfully recruited as spied by Israel, the official claimed that the evidence against the alleged accused “is very, very flimsy indeed.”
Agudath Israel of America’s executive vice president for government and public affairs, Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, characterized the assertion that the CIA considers religious Jews with intelligence clearances to be automatically suspect of spying for Israel as “astounding, insulting and outrageous.”
It feeds into and more than likely feeds from the classic anti-Semitic portrait of the Jew as untrustworthy outsider,” he further contended. To the best of my knowledge, no religious Jew has ever been convicted of espionage, and it is the height of absurdity for the CIA to engage in this type of offensive religious stereotyping.”
The Agudath Israel leader also noted that it is part of a Jew’s religious obligation to be a faithful citizen of his country, and that “never in history has there been a country so deeply appreciated by religious Jews and rightly so as the United States.
In a letter to CIA director Tenet, Mr. Zwiebel called on the CIA to, at its very highest levels, disassociate himself and the agency, clearly and without qualification, from the broadcast assertions.