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Jewish Journal

Does AIPAC Prober Target Jews?

by Edwin Black

September 23, 2004 | 8:00 pm

David Szady, the senior FBI counterintelligence official currently heading the controversial investigation of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), is well-known to senior Jewish communal officials, who assert he has targeted Jews in the past.

Now, an investigation reveals that Szady was involved in a well-publicized case involving a Jewish former CIA staff attorney who sued the FBI, the CIA and its top officials for religious discrimination. Although not named in the suit, Szady headed the elite department that former CIA Director George Tenet admitted in 1999 was involved with "insensitive, unprofessional and highly inappropriate" language regarding the case of attorney Adam Ciralsky.

The AIPAC investigation, which CBS broke last month on the eve of the Republican convention, is believed to focus on a Pentagon official suspected of passing a classified draft policy statement on Iran to AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby, which allegedly then passed it on to Israel.

AIPAC denies any wrongdoing and has called the alleged charges "baseless." But the case cast a spotlight on the venerable lobbying organization and has sent shock waves through the Jewish community.

Jewish communal officials and members of Congress have protested the investigation and the media frenzy around it, calling for an investigation into who leaked the investigation and for what purpose.

Many questions remain unresolved, including who initiated the investigation, believed to have begun two years ago, and why.

Szady was appointed by President Bush in 2001 to head a little-known intelligence interagency unit known as the National Counter Intelligence Policy Board. He returned to the FBI about two years ago, becoming assistant director for counterintelligence.

Jewish communal officials familiar with Szady assert that he has targeted Jews, blocked or slowed their clearances and squeezed minor security violators.

"He's bad, very bad," declared one senior Jewish organizational executive, who like all those familiar with Szady declined to speak for the record.

According to exclusively obtained documents, Szady was directly involved in the Ciralsky case. He is identified in the documents as the chief of the CIA's Counterespionage Group, known as CEG, which was later accused of targeting Ciralsky for being Jewish and a supporter of Israel.

Szady would not respond directly to a request for an interview, but FBI spokeswoman Cassandra Chandler said, "David Szady has informed me that he has no anti-Semitic views, has never handled a case or investigation based upon an individual's ethnicity or religious views and would never do so."

Of the AIPAC investigation in particular, Chandler said: "Investigations are predicated upon information of possible illegal or intelligence activity. The suggestion that the FBI or any FBI official has influenced this investigation based on moral, ethnic or religious bias is simply unfounded, untrue and contrary to the very values the FBI holds highest."

Ciralsky's problems began as soon as he joined the CIA's legal staff as a junior member in early December 1996. Within days, CIA security personnel began creating a special file on Ciralsky and his Jewish background, according to the documents.

One Dec. 19, 1996, internal CIA memo on Ciralsky indicated that a CIA supervisor "would like to keep current on developments for damage control purposes."

By Jan. 15, 1997, the agency had created a four-page annotated "Jewish resume" of Ciralsky, which was classified "secret." The resume listed Ciralsky's teenage trips to Israel in 1987 with the Milwaukee federation and for Passover in 1988, his camp counselor stint at the Milwaukee JCC's day camp and his minor in Judaic studies at George Washington University. His major in international affairs was not mentioned.

Shortly thereafter, CIA security personnel were asking whether Ciralsky's nephew might be working with the Israeli government, according to documents. The nephew was only about 5 months old at the time.

By May 1997, Szady, a 32-year veteran of the FBI, had joined the CIA as chief of the CEG within the CIA's Counterintelligence Center. A presidential directive mandates that an independent FBI official serve as chief of the CIA's CEG.

Although Szady was not in his post when Ciralsky was hired, shortly after Szady assumed his new position, the CEG appeared determined to terminate Ciralsky.

On June 12, 1997, a memo titled, "Spot Report-Next Steps in the Adam Ciralsky Case," was circulated by Szady's department, outlining what would be done to force Ciralsky from the agency.

The report and the routing slips were tagged with classifications such as "sensitive," "restricted handling" and "eyes only, no registries," thus ensuring that the documents would not end up in any formal and traceable file.

Although Szady's name is blocked out, his bureaucratic initials, C/CEG/CIC, on two routing pages, plus the hand-written acknowledgment next to his initials, show he received the "Spot Report" the day it was written, according to sources with personal knowledge of the case.

By September 1997, unable to find any incriminating information on Ciralsky, Szady's CEG assigned teams of investigators to ramp up the pressure with multiple interrogations, according to documents.

One CEG investigator's memo on Sept. 12, 1997, suggests questions for interrogators to ask Ciralsky, such as, "What is your family's relation with Israeli President Ezer Wizman [sic]?" This question was based on the fact that Ciralsky is a distant relative of Ezer Weizman, who was Israel's president at the time. The Sept. 12, 1997, memo added, "Maybe his family has donated money to Israeli government causes."

The memo also quotes one of Szady's investigators, saying, "From my experience with rich Jewish friends from college, I would fully expect Adam's wealthy daddy to support Israeli political/social causes in some form [such as] Israeli Bonds purchased through the United Jewish Appeal."

A week later, Sept. 19, 1997, before a security polygraph had even been administered, Szady's CEG circulated a secret memo, saying that former CIA Director "Tenet says this guy is outta here, because of lack of candor. Once that's over, it looks like we'll be waving goodbye to our friend."

Szady was third on the distribution list to receive that Sept. 19 memo, according to the routing slip and sources.

A handwritten note on the routing slips comments, "Great job -- we should have Ciralsky's report in the security file. This will definitely result in termination by cancellation of contract! Thx."

Ciralsky complained to the CIA's inspector general, the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity, to senior administration officials and to Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

After the outlines of the Ciralsky story broke in 1998, the CIA launched an internal and external review of Szady's department, the CEG, to determine whether it had engaged in anti-Semitism.

As a result of that review, Tenet conceded in a letter to Abraham Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League's (ADL) national director, that "some of the language used by some of the investigators in this case was insensitive, unprofessional and highly inappropriate."

After the review, the CIA hired the ADL to conduct "sensitivity training" within the ranks of Szady's CEG.

Foxman said, "The sensitivity training in the CIA was not directed at one individual. It was directed at a situation. There was a concern in the agency at that time, that the world was changing and the agency itself needed its staff to be sensitive to diversity."

After he left the CIA in 1998, when his contract was not renewed, Ciralsky filed a lawsuit against the CIA, the FBI and others, alleging that he was "unjustly singled out for investigation and subsequently interrogated, harassed, surveilled and terminated from employment with the CIA solely because he is a Jew and he practices the Jewish religion," according to the complaint.

Ciralsky's case was not isolated within the intelligence community, according to senior officials at Jewish organizations who declined to speak for the record. One Jewish official stated that he knew of as many as 10 other CIA employees who had been harassed or pressured because of their Jewish background, but they were afraid to come forward.

Postings on the CIA's internal Jewish-only bulletin board -- the agency allows various ethnic groups within its ranks to share company tidbits -- reflect that numerous employees feel anti-Semitism is rampant. One such posting in 2000, obtained from sources, asks, "Does anyone know how one would go about informing the D/CI [director of central intelligence] directly that some incidents of anti-Semitism are tolerated?"

Despite Szady's direct involvement in the Ciralsky case, Szady was decorated twice by the CIA for distinguished service, once with its Seal Medallion and once with the Donovan Award.

One Jewish communal official said of Szady, "He has never stopped looking for Mr. X," the elusive individual some FBI officials hypothesized worked with Jonathan Pollard, who was sentenced in 1987 for spying for Israel.

At least one senior Jewish official cautioned against concluding too much. "Szady might just be overzealous. I know Jews who have been to his house, and they assure they saw no evidence of prejudice."

On Szady's link to the Ciralsky case, American Jewish Congress Chairman Jack Rosen said, "The FBI, in recent years, has been criticized for many things, and if the story is true, I would urge that an outside and independent individual or group come in to investigate."

Ciralsky, now a TV network newsman, declined to comment on his case. His lawsuit has been caught up in pretrial legal limbo, hampered by a series of preliminary motions, according to attorneys familiar with the case.

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