another take on the same issue
- As reported by the Washington Times/Associated Press:
March 6, 2002
U.S. deports Israeli 'students' ASSOCIATED PRESS
Authorities have arrested and deported dozens of young Israelis since
early last year who represented themselves as art students in efforts to gain
access to sensitive federal office buildings and the homes of government
employees, U.S. officials said.
A draft report from the Drug Enforcement Administration — which first
characterized the activities as suspicious — said the youths' actions "may
well be an organized intelligence-gathering activity."
Immigration officials deported them for visa violations; no criminal
espionage charges were filed.
The arrests, made in an unspecified number of major U.S. cities from
California to Florida, came amid public warnings from U.S. intelligence
agencies about suspicious behavior by people posing as Israeli art students
and "attempting to bypass facility security and enter federal buildings."
The Israelis were arrested and deported on charges of working in the
United States without authorization or overstaying visits on tourist visas,
said Russ Bergeron, a spokesman for the Immigration and Naturalization
Service in Washington. He described dozens of arrests since early 2001, but
gave no exact figures.
The DEA report said a majority of the students questioned by U.S.
investigators acknowledged having served in military intelligence,
electronic-signals interception or explosive-ordnance units in the Israeli
military. The DEA said one person questioned was the son of a two-star
Israeli general, one had served as the bodyguard to the head of the Israeli
army and another served in a Patriot-missile unit.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Yaffa Ben-Ari said it was
"nonsense" that the students were spying on the United States.
Another Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Irit Stopper, confirmed that a few
Israelis posing as art students were expelled from the United States for
working without permits. However, they were not accused of espionage, she
said. She did not say how many Israelis were expelled and did not give any
The DEA report said that among U.S. sites apparently targeted was Tinker
Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, home to the military's AWACS surveillance
planes and the place where many of the nation's B-1 bombers are repaired.
Investigators also said that one female art student went to the home of a
worker for the Environmental Protection Agency in Denver to sell paintings
and returned later to photograph the house, according to the report.
The DEA report was first obtained by a French Web site that specializes
in intelligence news — Intelligenceonline.com — and confirmed yesterday as
authentic by DEA spokeswoman Rogene Waite in Washington. The Web site said
120 Israelis had been arrested.
An FBI official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, noted that
there were no espionage charges filed against any of the individuals and that
they had been deported. Asked whether any spying activity occurred, the
official repeated that no charges had been filed.
A Justice Department official, also asking not to be publicly
identified, said investigators have been aware of some "linkage" between the
students and purported espionage activities in the United States since early
2001, and said authorities have made arrests in Dallas, Chicago, San Diego
and in south Florida. Immigration service spokesman Rodney Germain in Miami
said five or six persons were arrested in that area at least six months ago
on immigration counts.
No one within the Justice Department has expressed concerns about the
Israeli students potentially committing espionage, Justice spokesman Bryan
The U.S. Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive, a federal
agency, circulated a public warning in March 2001 urging employees to report
contact with people describing themselves as Israeli art students.
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