In 1992, a colleague complained that Tenenbaum was spending too much
time with his Israeli hosts and voiced suspicion that he was a spy. By 1997,
Tenenbaum was suspended, his security clearance was revoked, and turned into
a subject of FBI investigation.
"If it is true that Mr. Tenenbaum was singled out for special scrutiny
and adverse action because of his Orthodox Jewish identity and practice, the
message that sends to all Orthodox Jews in this country is nothing short of
devastating," Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath
Israel of America, said in a June 27 letter to Pentagon Inspector-General
Claude Kicklighter. "It tells us that, despite the fact that we may be model
citizens in every sense of the term, we are somehow considered second-class
Americans, not to be trusted within the Department of Defense."
In July 2008, the Pentagon's inspector general determined that Tenenbaum
was discriminated against because of his religion. The report said
Tenenbaum's security clearance was revoked and he was placed on
administrative leave despite a determination by the FBI that the allegations
against him were either false or highly exaggerated.
"It does appear to be clear, however, that had the complainant not been
a practitioner of Orthodox Judaism, he would not have been subject to such
intense and protracted scrutiny," the report said.
By 2003, Tenenbaum's security clearance was restored. But he was not
returned to his previous position of developing enhanced protection
for light armored vehicles.
The Pentagon report portrayed Tenenbaum as a leading proponent of
employing foreign cooperation to protect U.S. armored vehicles from
improvised explosive devices and other threats. He proposed the Light Armor
Survivability System project with Germany and Israel to study ways to harden
U.S. combat vehicles.
"The complainant proposed the LASS program at TACOM to develop the tools
necessary to predict as a means of engineering modeling the Behind Armor
Debris which results from the successful deployment of an overmatching
threat such as a high velocity, large caliber anti-personnel round, a mine,
a rocket-propelled grenade, or an improvised explosive device," said the
report, dated July 13 and authored by deputy inspector general for
intelligence Patricia Brannin. "The complainant was working by the
late 1990s on mapping the threat of secondary shrapnel generated by attacks
such as those currently facing American and allied forces in the Iraq and
Afghanistan theaters of operations today."
The report said Tenenbaum sought to focus on enhancing the Humvee, the
leading combat vehicle in Afghanistan and Iraq. LASS was designed to
increase the safety and survivability of the Humvee and other light combat
vehicles amid the emerging urban warfare threat against the United States by
such Islamic insurgency groups as Al Qaida and Hizbullah.
"This [project] was initiated to prevent development of conditions which
require ad hoc, battlefield solutions requiring a soldier's use of scrap
metal, discarded lumber and extra clothing," the report said.
Ms. Brannin said LASS was torpedoed by complaints from at least one
co-worker of Tenenbaum's affinity with Israel. Despite protests from his
supervisers that the complaints were baseless, Tenenbaum was prevented from
traveling to Israel in December 1996.
"I needed the employee to work on the programs," an unidentified
superviser said in a memorandum obtained by the inspector general.
The Pentagon report suggested that complaints against Tenenbaum stemmed
from resentment by colleagues to his Orthodox Jewish lifestyle. Complaints
from Tenenbaum's observance of the Sabbath, which sometimes required him to
leave work early on Friday, to the presence of Israeli officers at TACOM.
"We did not find any evidence that Israeli liasion officers were
illegally or unlawfully at TACOM," the report said. "The Department of the
Army Foreign Disclosure Officer who was responsible for certifying Israeli
liasion officers testified that he approved an Israeli liasion officer and
an Israeli Ministry of Defense official to come to TACOM."
The report said Tenenbaum was neither informed of his constitutional
rights nor that he was suspected of espionage. Instead, he was threatened by
a polygraph interrogator, who warned "I've done other Jews before and gotten
them to confess, too."
"I believed him [Tenenbaum]," the lead FBI special agent in the
investigation was quoted in the report as saying. "But I also believed there
was an intelligence operation at work here. And I think he was an unwitting
pawn in a far bigger very wide-ranging intelligence scheme."
The report said the investigators were influenced by a disavowed
counter-intelligence report that Israel employed Jews to spy on the United
States. The counter-intelligence report cited the targets of the Israeli
intelligence community as Arab states, information on U.S. policy toward
Israel and the American scientific community.
"The strong ethnic ties to Israel present in the United States coupled
with aggressive and extremely competent intelligence personnel has resulted
in a very productive collection effort," the 1995 counter-intelligence
In the end, LASS, amid the absence of Tenenbaum, was scaled down.
Germany was not recruited into the project, and enhanced armor for the
was never developed.
During the U.S. war in Iraq in 2003, the American military awarded
contracts for reactive explosive armor to Israel's Rafael Advanced Defense
Systems and Plasan Sasa. About 70 percent of U.S. casualties in Iraq stem
"As executed, the program included only the United States, Israel and a
research contractor," the report said. "The deliverable was a computation
model capable of receiving and analyzing data from ballistic testing to
assess the impact of Behind Armor Debris. The Humvee was chosen as the test