FBI investigating Israelis for military-industrial espionage

Monday, December 13, 2004

TEL AVIV The FBI is investigating Israelis in New York suspected of conducting inustrial espionage, according to officals with Israel's defense ministry.

The FBI has refused to say whether it was investigating any Israelis.

Israeli officials said diplomats and defense representatives were being urged to exercise caution in dealing with their U.S. counterparts, Middle East Newsline reported. They said the defense representatives were ordered to be less aggressive in seeking details of U.S. military platforms and systems.

Officials said the FBI has been investigating Israeli behavior. They said the FBI suspects that Israeli representatives, particularly those from the Defense Ministry legation in New York, were involved in industrial espionage.

The Defense Ministry said most of the allegations were based on a misunderstanding of Israeli culture. The ministry said in all of the cases, Israeli representatives were seeking details of unclassified material.

"For the past three years, the MoD has been engaged in a comprehensive training program aimed at training Israeli officials and industry members in the American way of thinking, in order to prevent misunderstandings that stem from different cultures and codes of behavior," a ministry statement said. "Accordingly, numerous briefings have taken place in the ministry, at army bases and in the industries in order to clarify the rules of 'do' and 'don't do.'"

Israel has issued new regulations for its representatives in the United States in an effort to avoid complaints of industrial espionage.

The regulations were issued in response to complaints from the U.S. government that Israeli officials were engaged in industrial espionage. The complaints cited the behavior by Israeli representatives during recent U.S. military tours and defense exhibitions.

The latest seminar was held the Defense Ministry's mission in New York in November. Ministry spokeswoman Rachel Neidek-Ashkenazi said Israeli officials sought details of what the United States termed "unclassified controlled information."

"From our perspective, unclassified is unclassified, and this type of information is open to everybody," Ms. Neidek-Ashkenazi said. "It is permitted to ask questions regarding this information. But with the Americans, there is another level of information that is unclassified but under control and if [an Israeli] continues to ask questions [pertaining to this category], he may be perceived of having crossed the line."

So far, officials said, the U.S. government has not relayed formal charges of industrial espionage against any Israeli. The FBI has refused to say whether it was investigating any Israelis.

Officials have acknowledged that Israeli representatives routinely attend U.S. defense exhibitions and seek information of displayed platforms.

They said Israeli representatives are also often invited to tours by the U.S. military or Pentagon.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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