Army veteran accused of slipping secrets to Israel in '80s

Larry NeumeisterAssociated Press Writer
San Francisco Chronicle
April 23, 2008

(04-23) 04:07 PDT NEW YORK, (AP) – An 84-year-old U.S. Army veteran was charged with revealing secrets about America's nuclear weapons, fighter jets and missiles to Israel more than 20 years ago in a case linked to an earlier spy scandal that strained U.S.-Israeli relations.

Ben-ami Kadish confessed to FBI agents that he had given the Israelis between 50 and 100 classified documents between 1979 and 1985, motivated by a desire to help Israel, prosecutors said.

In a further twist, Kadish's handler, an unidentified Israeli consulate worker, was also at the center of another 1980s espionage scandal – the Jonathan Pollard case.

Over six years, Kadish took home information about nuclear weapons, a modified version of an F-15 fighter jet and the U.S. Patriot missile air defense system, and he let his handler photograph the documents in his basement, prosecutors said.

Kadish was charged Tuesday with four counts of conspiracy, including allegations that he shared U.S. national defense documents to Israel and acted as an agent of the Israeli government.

Kadish declined to comment as he left the courthouse. At one point, he held a plastic bag of medications in front of his eyes to shield himself from sunshine.

"I'm not saying anything," he said.

Calls requesting comment from the Israeli consulate in the U.S. were referred to Jerusalem, where Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Arye Mekel said: "We know nothing about it. We have nothing to say."

Prosecutors said the handler who received the information from Kadish also obtained information from Pollard, who is serving a life sentence for selling military secrets to Israel while working as an intelligence analyst for the Navy. His case damaged U.S.-Israeli relations in the 1980s and remains a sore point between the countries.

Kadish worked at the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center at the Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey. On numerous occasions between 1979 and 1985, the agent provided Kadish with lists of classified documents he was interested in, according to the complaint. Kadish worked at the base from 1963 through 1990.

Kadish signed out at least 35 classified documents, according to prosecutors. Kadish told the FBI that he knew that one restricted document he provided included atomic-related information and that he did not have the required clearance to borrow it, authorities said.

Kadish, who worked as a mechanical engineer, allegedly accepted no cash in return for the information, only small gifts and occasional dinners for him and his family.

Prosecutors said his handler worked at the Israeli consulate in Manhattan from 1980 to 1985. He left the United States in November 1985 and has not returned, according to prosecutors.

The complaint described a close relationship between the two men that continued beyond 1985 and included telephone and e-mail exchanges as recently as Sunday.

The United States is Israel's closest ally and provides about $2.2 billion a year in military assistance. In the last few years, the two nations have conducted tests to integrate Israeli-made Arrow anti-ballistic missiles with the Patriot system to create a multilayered air defense system.

Besides the spying counts, Kadish is charged with conspiring to hinder a communication with, and to make a materially false statement to, a law enforcement officer.

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