Will precedent place Israel lobby organizations above the law?
The U.S. Department of Justice asked a federal judge on Friday to throw out a lawsuit against the American Coalition Against Nuclear Iran, Inc., more popularly known as United Against a Nuclear Iran (UANI). Greek shipping magnate Victor Restis sued UANI last year claiming the group’s false public allegations he aided Iran’s nuclear program had cost him billions in lost revenue. Mystery surrounds precisely how the U.S. Department of Justice decided to become involved in the civil suit. Clues may be found in its most court recent filing (PDF) demanding the lawsuit be shut down. On February 14, 2014 “the Government informed the Court that the United States wished to have an opportunity to determine whether the Government had an interest in this action.” According to the court docket (PDF) through that time UANI was losing a series of key battles to dismiss the Restis lawsuit and evade standard discovery motions that would have revealed its secret sources of funding and clandestine operations to obtain sensitive information. It is likely UANI called in the government to help get the case dismissed.
UANI clearly has a lot to hide. Its board of advisors includes the former head of a country’s foreign intelligence services in the top tier targeting the United States for economic and military secrets – Israeli Mossad’s former General Director Meir Dagan. The thinly-funded organization has premium office space in Rockefeller Center in New York. With a budget of only $1.8 million per year, UANI somehow manages to target timely satellite imaging while intercepting internal corporate communications it uses to launch private and public shakedowns of corporations it claims are not sufficiently adhering to the Israel-lobby driven Iran boycott. UANI resembles yet another in a long line of thinly-veiled Israeli cover entities more than a bona fide charity.
The U.S. government is asking the newly assigned judge, Kevin Nathaniel Fox, that the case be dismissed without U.S. attorneys having to reveal which federal agency’s secrets are in UANI’s possession, how UANI acquired and used them, and why there has not been a 1917 Espionage Act investigation of the group for possessing such information if it is unauthorized. If such a “state secrets privilege” is granted, Victor Restis will have no opportunity to clear his name or recover damages since allegations will never be litigated. UANI will have acquired a binding “license to smear” and operate beyond the law. The boards and staff of other Israel lobbying organizations, many with their own former U.S. and foreign government officials with access to classified information, may exercise expansive new powers. The legal precedent established by Restis v. UANI may formalize immunity from criminal and civil statutes that Israel lobbying organizations have slowly been acquiring since 1948.
In the 1940s an archipelago of Israel fronts posing as charities successfully avoided Arms Export Act and Neutrality Act charges by arguing that none of the tons of advanced weapons being smuggled out of the nation would be used against America. Scores of powerful American charities operating on behalf of Israel including the Zionist Organization of America, American Zionist Council/American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the American Jewish Committee (PDF) avoided the 1938 Foreign Agent Registration Act enforcement. Their key argument to the Justice Department was that FARA was designed to combat Nazism and communism, not the Israeli government’s propaganda campaigns, intelligence transfers and foreign seed money flows to groups like AIPAC.
Israel’s American nuclear weapons smuggling ventures, such as NUMEC, the Netanyahu/Smyth/Milchan ring and Telogy (PDF) have been covered up by successive presidential administrations afraid to reveal their inability or unwillingness to enforce the law whenever it could threaten political support or campaign contributions. In the 1980s, the Justice Department quashed an investigation in which classified information stolen by Israeli agents was given to AIPAC in order to pass an unfavorable U.S. trade agreement. The Justice Department’s more recent failure to prosecute AIPAC officials for espionage charges in 2005, and kid-gloves treatment of spies Ben-Ami Kadish and Stuart Nozette all foreshadowed the Obama administration establishing actual court precedents that “Israel lobbying crimes are above the law.”
Thanks to declassified documents and the disclosures from Edward Snowden, it is not difficult to imagine how Israel, its lobby and the Justice Department might engineer such immunity. Although most Americans never voted on it – and would likely never approve – current United States policy is that “the survival of the state of Israel is a paramount goal of U.S. Middle East policy.” Therefore no activities claiming to advance that policy can ever be criminally prosecuted, no matter how illegal. NSA intercepts have been given to the DEA, which then “recreates” a parallel evidence trail in drug cases, scrubbing away their secret origin. Israel is also in a good position to launder NSA intercepts or its own intercepts back into its myriad American front organizations to attack foreign adversaries (possibly even for purely commercial reasons). UANI’s stunning capacity to aim satellites for imaging and obtain internal corporate documents is more explainable if it is really a foreign or domestic conduit laundering intelligence rather than the originator. Protecting that laundering should not be the job of the Justice Department.
It is unsurprising that after nearly seventy years of capitulation and failure to uphold U.S. laws when such Israel lobbying organizations commit crimes that the Department of Justice is now working to establish immunity through legal precedents. The judge should immediately throw out the “state secrets” claim. Many of the cases cited by the U.S. attorneys in their “table of authorities” as legal precedents involved large established defense contractors such as General Dynamics, McDonnell Douglas, and other parties which – agree with their activities or not – all had a legal right for their cleared employees to obtain and use classified information in the course of their government contracts.
Who are UANI’s cleared personnel? By what right does it circulate classified information? UANI claims no government grant revenue on its public tax declarations as a charity (PDF). UANI is either not receiving any classified information as a paid U.S. government contractor, or it is and simply files fraudulent IRS declarations. Rather than bow to the cover-up, the judge should demand to know from where and under what statutory authority a charity like UANI legally obtaining and using classified information against its targets. The judge should ask how many other U.S. charities active in shaping foreign policy would also become immune from criminal liability and civil suits under the DOJ’s protection.
More importantly it is now the court’s obligation to the public – given the extraordinary and unprecedented U.S. government intervention – to determine whether U.S. agencies are violating bans on intelligence operations conducted on American soil or once again failing to pursue warranted FARA and the Espionage Act prosecutions against UANI as a foreign intelligence operation.