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A DEA government document later leaked to the press [Drug Enforcement Agency, 6/2001] suggests that a large Israeli spy ring starts penetrating the US from at least this time, if not earlier. This ring, which will later become popularly known as the “art student spy ring,” is later shown to have unusual connections to the events of 9/11. [Insight, 3/11/2002]

Entity Tags: United States, “Israeli art students”, Drug Enforcement Administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

USA Today reports that “Israeli crime groups… dominate distribution” of the drug Ecstasy. [USA Today, 4/19/2000] The DEA also states that most of the Ecstasy sold in the US is “controlled by organized crime figures in Western Europe, Russia, and Israel.” [United Press International, 10/25/2001] According to DEA documents, the Israeli “art student spy ring” “has been linked to several ongoing DEA [Ecstasy] investigations in Florida, California, Texas, and New York now being closely coordinated by DEA headquarters.” [Insight, 3/11/2002]

Entity Tags: Drug Enforcement Administration, “Israeli art students”

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

States the Israeli spy ring were known to have operated in, according to a June 2001 Drug Enforcement Administration report (this Fox news graphic was based on information from that report).States the Israeli spy ring were known to have operated in, according to a June 2001 Drug Enforcement Administration report (this Fox news graphic was based on information from that report). [Source: Fox News]The DEA’s Office of Security Programs prepares a 60-page internal memo on the Israeli “art student spy ring.” [Drug Enforcement Agency, 6/2001] The Memo is a compilation of dozens of field reports, and was meant only for the eyes of senior officials at the Justice Department (of which the DEA is adjunct), but it is leaked to the press around December 2001. The report connects the spies to efforts to foil investigations into Israeli organized crime activity involving the importation of the drug Ecstasy. The spies also appear to be snooping on top-secret military bases. For instance, on April 30, 2001, an Air Force alert was issued from Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City concerning “possible intelligence collection being conducted by Israeli art students.” Tinker AFB houses AWACS surveillance craft and Stealth bombers. By the time of the report, the US has “apprehended or expelled close to 120 Israeli nationals” but many remain at large. [Le Monde (Paris), 3/5/2002; Salon, 5/7/2002] An additional 20 or so Israeli spies are apprehended between June and 9/11. [Fox News, 12/12/2001]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, “Israeli art students”, Office of Security Programs

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

National Security Adviser Rice, upset with a media leak, orders an investigation that will uncover evidence of widespread Israeli spying in the US. The Saudis had recently threatened to end their close alliance with the US (see August 27, 2001 and August 29-September 6, 2001), and on September 6, 2001, President Bush held a meeting attended by Rice and others to work on how to appease Saudi concerns (see September 6, 2001). Just three days after the meeting, there is a story by Jane Perlez in the New York Times accurately detailing what was discussed in the meeting. It will later be reported that Rice is furious about the leak to Perlez and immediately demands a clampdown on leakers. The determination to improve secrecy increases in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. This leak investigation focuses on Israelis in the US. No one is ever prosecuted for the leak to Perlez, but the investigation will takes on a life of its own and continue for years. [New York Times, 9/9/2001; JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 5/17/2005; Nation, 7/14/2005] It appears the FBI had been investigating Israeli spying in the US since at least 1999 (see April 13, 1999-2004), and there are reports of a discovery of a “massive” Israeli spy operation in the US in 2001 (see 2001) and/or the discovery of the Israeli art student spy ring (see March 23, 2001 and June 2001). It is unclear if there is any connection between these investigations and this media link investigation or not.

Entity Tags: Jane Perlez, Condoleezza Rice

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Police in the Midwest stop six men carrying suspicious documents. They possess photos and descriptions of a nuclear power plant in Florida and the Trans-Alaska pipeline, and have “box cutters and other equipment.” All six have Israeli passports. They are released the same day after their passports are shown to be valid, but before anyone interviews them. The FBI is reportedly furious about their release. [Miami Herald, 10/3/2001; Knight Ridder, 10/31/2001; London Times, 11/2/2001] The six men may have been Mossad agents. In addition to snooping on the DEA and Islamic militants, some Mossad agents in the “art student spy ring” have been caught trying to break into military bases and other top-secret facilities (see March 23, 2001). [Salon, 5/7/2002]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Two stills from Carl Cameron’s Fox News report on potential Israeli spying in the US.Two stills from Carl Cameron’s Fox News report on potential Israeli spying in the US. [Source: Fox News]Fox News reports: “Investigators within the DEA, INS, and FBI have all told Fox News that to pursue or even suggest Israeli spying… is considered career suicide.… A highly placed investigator says there are ‘tie-ins’ between the spy ring and 9/11. However, when asked for details, he flatly refuses to describe them, saying, ‘evidence linking these Israelis to 9/11 is classified. I cannot tell you about evidence that has been gathered. It’s classified information.’” The report also reveals that Amdocs, an Israeli company, is recording virtually every phone call in the US and could be passing information on to the Israeli government (similar claims were first raised in 2000 [Insight, 5/29/2000] ). Fox News suggests that the position of this company might impede the 9/11 investigation. [Fox News, 12/12/2001]

Entity Tags: US Immigration and Naturalization Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, Amdocs, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Israel

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

It is reported that many spies in the uncovered Israeli spy ring seemed to have been trailing the 9/11 hijackers. At the very least, they were in close proximity. For instance, five Israeli spies are intercepted in the tiny town of Hollywood, Florida, and four 9/11 hijackers are known to have spent time in Hollywood, Florida. [Le Monde (Paris), 3/5/2002; Reuters, 3/5/2002; Jane's Intelligence Digest, 3/15/2002] In one case, some Israeli spies lived at 4220 Sheridan Street, only a few hundred feet from where Mohamed Atta was living at 3389 Sheridan Street. Israeli spies appear to have been close to at least ten of the 19 9/11 hijackers. [Salon, 5/7/2002]

Entity Tags: Israel Institute for Intelligence and Special Tasks (Mossad), Mohamed Atta

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A Washington Post article, relying on US officials, denies the existence of any Israeli spy ring. A “wide array of US officials” supposedly deny it, and Justice Department spokeswoman Susan Dryden says: “This seems to be an urban myth that has been circulating for months. The department has no information at this time to substantiate these widespread reports about Israeli art students involved in espionage.” [Washington Post, 3/6/2002] The New York Times fails to cover the story at all, even months later. [Salon, 5/7/2002] By mid-March, Jane’s Intelligence Digest, the respected British intelligence and military analysis service, notes: “It is rather strange that the US media seems to be ignoring what may well be the most explosive story since the 11 September attacks—the alleged breakup of a major Israeli espionage operation in the USA.” [Jane's Intelligence Digest, 3/15/2002]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, Susan Dryden, “Israeli art students”

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Forward, a US publication with a large Jewish audience, admits that there has been an Israeli spy ring in the US. [Forward, 3/15/2002] This is a reversal of their earlier stance. [Forward, 12/21/2001] But, “far from pointing to Israeli spying against US government and military facilities, as reported in Europe last week, the incidents in question appear to represent a case of Israelis in the United States spying on a common enemy, radical Islamic networks suspected of links to Middle East terrorism.” [Forward, 3/15/2002]

Entity Tags: “Israeli art students”

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Salon reports on the Israeli “art student spy ring.” All the “students” claim to have come from either Bezalel Academy or the University of Jerusalem. An examination of the Bezalel database shows that not a single “art student” appears to have attended school there. There is no such thing as the University of Jerusalem. In fact, the article points out that the sheer sloppiness and brazenness of the spy operation appears to be a great mystery, especially since the Mossad is renowned as one of the best spy agencies in the world. One government source suggests a theory to Salon that the “art students” were actually a smoke screen. They were meant to be caught and connected to DEA surveillance so that a smaller number of spies also posing as art students could complete other missions. One such mission could have been the monitoring of al-Qaeda operatives. [Salon, 5/7/2002] Shortly afterwards, a major Israeli newspaper publishes a story about the spy ring, but does not come to any conclusions. [Ha'aretz, 5/14/2002]

Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, “Israeli art students”, Drug Enforcement Administration, Israel Institute for Intelligence and Special Tasks (Mossad)

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

In a curious echo of reports of an Israeli “art student spy ring” in the US before 9/11, it is reported that numerous young Israelis claiming to be from non-existent art schools in Israel are being arrested and deported for selling art in Canada. Unlike the earlier events in the US, there are no reports of government offices and workers being targeted. Rather, it appears to be a money making scam to sell cheap Asian art for vastly inflated prices in numerous Canadian cities. However, it is reported these Israelis “may be linked to a group fronting for Islamic fundamentalist fundraisers.” The nature and detail of the connection between the Israelis and Islamic fundamentalists is not explained in the newspaper accounts of this scam. [Ha'aretz, 9/16/2004; Jerusalem Post, 9/16/2004]

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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