Lekem, BIRD, BARD & BSF | Covert and legal ways Israel transfers United States’ technology to Russia

Art by Jon Swinn

In 1957, Russian empire descendantsBen-Gurion, [Shimon] Peres, and a few Israeli scientists were determined from the start that their nation would be far ahead of its Arab neighbors in science and technology. They seriously believed that Israel could be among the top tech powers on Earth, which would guarantee its military supremacy over the much larger nations surrounding it.” (Raviv, Melman)

Lekem, (also pronounced “LAKAM”) was an Israeli intelligence agency headed by Benjamin Blumberg (1957–1981), and Rafi Eitan (1981–1986). It collected scientific and technical intelligence abroad from both open and covert sources … It was disbanded in 1986 following the arrest of Jonathan Pollard for espionage on behalf of Israel [and the Soviet Union]. Pollard was a United States Navy intelligence employee in the Naval Antiterrorist Alert Center in Washington, D.C. He was paid for delivering large amounts of classified documents to Lekem agents. Pollard was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.” (Wikipedia)

“The first director [of LAKAM], Binyamin Bloomberg, proved adept at bureaucratic self-protection and managed to make himself and his highly secret agency autonomous within the Israeli intelligence community. By the late 1960s, … Shimon Peres was particularly active in developing a “technology penetration and acquisition network” to help the industry he had done so much to father.

While the network — with LAKAM at its heart — operated all over the world, the United States was the main target. The reasons were obvious: the U.S. was (and remains) far ahead of the rest of the world in technological research and development, and at the same time was on the best of terms with Israel. While a retired KGB official would not have been allowed to take a tour around the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory south of San Francisco, Yuval Ne’eman, a veteran of Military Intelligence, was. At the time of his tour around the secret research center, Ne’eman was supposedly no more than a disinterested academic. When the FBI attempted to get him to register as an agent of the Israeli government, the CIA intervened to get the demand quashed.

While LAKAM functioned as one direct instrument of the Ministry of Defense in the United States, the Military Purchasing Mission in New York serves as another. The Mission is the direct institutional descendant of the old covert arms-smuggling office run by Teddy Kollek above the Copacabana nightclub on East 60th Street. These days it functions in a rather less exotic setting: the sixth floor of a nondescript office building on Third Avenue. Whereas in the early days Shimon Peres would have to go to rich Jews like the Bronfmans to ask for money for arms, and be told to go and change his socks, the Mission now has at least $1.4 billion a year to dispose of, courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer. As its name suggests, the Mission does the shopping for the IDF in the United States, spending the military aid money that arrives promptly every October, the beginning of the financial year. Until irritated Pentagon officials made the fact public, the actual operating expenses of the Mission, $2.8 million a year, were themselves charged to U.S. military aid. …

[Menachem] Begin had invented the job of antiterrorism adviser to the prime minister as a sinecure for an old comrade in arms for the Igrun. When that individual was killed in a car crash in 1978, [Ariel] Sharon got [Rafi] Eitan the post. Finally, after Begin won the 1981 general election and formed a new government, Sharon became minister of defense, the job he had wanted for a long time. Hardly had he moved into the Kirya when he dismissed Blumberg and appointed Eitan as head of LAKAM.

It was an auspicious time to be taking over an espionage agency specializing in defense technology. The recently installed Reagan administration was engaged in bolstering the Pentagon budget to undreamt-of heights; money was pouring into military research and development. Friends of Israel, such as Stephen Bryen, were well represented in senior positions. Richard Perle, Bryen’s boss, had actually been lobbying for an Israeli defense corporation when he moved into the Pentagon. Formal recognition of the enhanced defense relationship between the two countries came with the Memorandum of Understanding on the military cooperation signed in October 1981.

Under Reagan, the U.S. military-industrial complex entered into a golden age. Defense had priority over all other claims on the budget; the “threat” was magnified through the prism of ever more alarmist intelligence; intelligence itself accumulated unprecedented institutional power. In other words, the U.S. was becoming more like Israel.

Among signs that Washington was beginning to see things the Israeli way was the attention given to “terrorism” as a phenomenon in itself and divorced from any political context. … The actions of the pre-independence Stern Gang, Irgun, and Haganah had served Israel well in driving out both the British and a large proportion of the Palestinian population, but Menachem Begin, for example, grew extremely indignant whenever someone described him as a former terrorist. …

The [Jonathan] Pollard case, it should be recalled, occurred in the days before the crumbling of the Berlin Wall and the vaporizing of the Cold War. Israel had painstakingly constructed its status as a strategic asset of the U.S. on the back of superpower confrontation. On the other hand, as Zvi Rafiah might say, Israel had a perennial interest in good relations with the Soviets because of its interest in securing the emigration of Soviet Jews, the only possible means — since American Jews seemed unlikely to emigrate — of bolstering its non-Arab population.” (Cockburn, 1991)

“It was treachery of the highest order, and then Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger was fully aware of the magnitude of Pollard’s crimes when he asked the judge to sentence Pollard to life in prison after the spy agreed to plead guilty. In a 46-page, classified affidavit submitted to the judge in the Pollard case, Weinberger showed that much of the Pollard material wound up in Soviet hands, and that it would cost the United States billions of dollars to repair the national security damage done by the Pollard spy ring.

In fact, of the millions of pages of classified documents funneled by Pollard, to the KGB, a majority were of no critical interest to Israel at all. …

[I]t is unquestionably the case that at the same time the ADL was knee-deep in the Pollard stew, top ADL [Anti-Defamation League] officials were working hand in glove with the Soviet bloc intelligence services on several other projects that would have devastating consequences for the United States.

One such ADL “friend of Moscow” was whiskey baron Edgar Bronfman.

The third-generation Bronfmans had successfully transformed their fathers’ Prohibition-era bootlegging business into a “legit” whiskey empire, Seagram’s. This transformation had been aided early on by the U.S. Treasury Department, which cut a deal with Sam and Abe Bronfman at the close of Prohibition, enabling them to pay several million dollars in “back taxes” in return for a whitewashing of their decade of big-time crimes.

The Bronfman family came out of the deal as multimillionaires — with all their ties to the [Meyer] Lansky syndicate still intact.

Abner “Longie” Zwillman was not the only Prohibition-era gangster who profited from the old saw, “from rags to rackets to riches to respectability.” By the 1950s, the Bronfmans’ image had been so cleaned up that Edgar could marry into the “Our Crowd” Loeb family, and his sister Phyllis could marry Jean Lambert of the Belgian branch of the Rothschild clan. The Lambert family was the European connection in Drexel Burnham Lambert. …

Edgar Bronfman, for his part, sought out some very peculiar clientele for his family’s whiskey business. In 1986, as the Pollard affair was playing out, one of Edgar Bronfman’s assistants at the World Jewish Congress (Bronfman had taken over the WJC and turned it into an international arm of the ADL, on whose National Commission he sits) established ties to the brutal Communist regime in East Germany. Bronfman’s Seagram’s was made the exclusive distributor of booze to East Germany’s ruling SED (Communist Party).

In 1988, Edgar Bronfman himself traveled to East Berlin where he was the guest of honor of SED boss Erich Honecker and top party official Hermann Axen. On that trip, Bronfman vowed that he would personally arrange for the East German leader to make a state visit to Washington, D.C. to meet with President Ronald Reagan.

Even one year later, with the Berlin Wall and East German Communism about to collapse, Edgar Bronfman was back in East Germany again, this time promising to marshal the resources of the World Jewish Congress and the ADL to block the reunification of Germany, which he dubbed a “sellout of socialism.” In return for those efforts, Bronfman was given the highest civilian award offered by East Germany, the “People’s Friendship Medal in Gold.”

Edgar’s brother and business partner Charles was also a true friend of the Honecker dictatorship. As the head of the Canadian-East German Friendship Society, he was able to control all passports and visas between the two countries.” (EIR, 1993)

In the early years of the Reagan administration, [Yosef] Bodansky was hired by [Richard] Perle and [Stephen] Bryen to be a consultant to the Defense Department. This was an unusual arrangement, since Bodansky was  an Israeli citizen. Bodansky worked for the “Technology Transfer Branch,” which examined whether technology transfers to such countries as Iraq, Iran, etc., were permissible. In 1985, shortly after Naval Intelligence employee Jonathan Pollard was caught spying for Israel, Bodansky dropped out of sight. According to well-informed sources, Bodansky was one of Pollard’s controllers, and had, they say, always operated as an agent of LEKEM, the Israeli Defense Ministry’s technological espionage branch. …

By 1989, he became director of the House Republican Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, where he report[ed] on the alleged Islamic threat to America.” (Brewda, 1993)

“While serving as Perle’s assistant at the Defense Department, Bryen formed the Technology Transfer Center, with oversight over the smuggling of strategic technology. Bryen hired Pollard’s reported handler, Yossef Bodansky, to serve at the center, as well as Michael Ledeen’s wife, Barbara Ledeen. 

One Israeli intelligence operative sent to the United States to work on the Lavi project was Yossef Bodansky, … a partner with Washington Times editor Arnaud de Borchgrave in Mid-Atlantic Research. Bodansky had worked with the Mossad-tied Stephen Bryen and Richard Perle at the U.S. Defense Department. According to Israeli intelligence sources, Bodansky was also a LEKEM handler of Jonathan Pollard.” (Brewda, 1988)

On Feb. 19, 1988, Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward published a front-page story detailing the Pentagon and CIA’s futile search for “Mr. X,” the designation for a high-level intelligence community mole who was believed to be providing Pollard with top-secret code numbers of classified military documents that Pollard … would then pilfer and pass on to Israeli and Soviet intelligence. Shabtai Kalmanowitch, a Russian-born Israeli multi-millionaire, soon to be tried in Israel as a KGB spy, widely believed to have been one of the Israel-Soviet “back channels” through which the “Mr. X” loot was shared with Moscow.

According to one Pentagon source, the elusive “Mr. X” is actually known to be an entire cell of shared Soviet-Israeli agents, rather than just one well-placed individual. While Woodward’s headline-grabbing revelations about “Mr. X” were aimed at blocking the Department of Justice from shutting down its Pollard investigation altogether, under reported strong pressure from State Department chief counsel Abraham Sofaer and Secretary of State George Shultz himself, Pentagon and CIA officials have been reportedly aware that they are dealing with an “X Committee,” buried deep inside the American national security establishment.

One version of the “X Committee” list, reportedly passed from the office of the general counsel to the Secretary of Defense and on to the FBI early this year, contained such prominent Reagan Administration figures as: [Fred] Ikle´, Richard Perle, Steven Bryen, Doug Feith, Andy Marshall, Henry Rowen, and Frank Gaffney, Jr. All were, up until very recently, senior officials at the Pentagon, the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and the CIA’s National Intelligence Estimates Board. 

Albert Wohlstetter Recruits a Net

Decades before there was Pollard and Kalmanowitch, Dr. Albert Wohlstetter had already established himself as one of America’s preeminent “nuclear strategists” — certainly one of the figures upon whom the early 1960s character “Dr. Strangelove” was based. First at the RAND Corporation and the University of Chicago, and later at his own consulting firm, Pan-Heuristics, Wohlstetter groomed literally scores of proteges for future sensitive government posts.

Using the Senate offices of the late Henry Jackson (D-Wash.) and Clifford Case (R-N.J.) as stepping stones for placing his epigones into the Washington, D.C. policymaking circuit, Wohlstetter had succeeded, by the time the Reagan Administration entered office, in placing his assets in sensitive and powerful positions at the Pentagon. Dr. Fred Ikle, a Wohlstetter protege from their days together at RAND, became the Deputy Secretary of Defense. Richard Perle, who had come under Wohlstetter’s wing while still a student at Hollywood High School, and who survived a 1970 near-arrest, reportedly for passing secrets to the Mossad while on Scoop Jackson’s staff, became President Reagan’s most trusted arms control adviser up until his departure from the Pentagon late last year. Perle was the actual author of the disastrous INF treaty proposal jumped on by Soviet boss Gorbachov at Reykjavik. …

In 1973, Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger hired his mentor [Andrew] Marshall to become director of the Office of Strategic Assessment. Under Marshall, it became the key Pentagon office overseeing the subcontracting of strategic assessments to private firms, such as RAND. Marshall has also served as the key liaison with the Israeli Defense Ministry. In 1982, Marshall, Fred Ikle, and Richard Perle co-authored the Reagan Administration’s guidelines on defense guidance.” (Steinberg, 1988)

In December 1987, another Soviet-Israeli spy, Shabtai Kalmanowitch, was arrested in Israel, this time on charges of spying for the KGB. Like Pollard, Kalmanowitch was also a Mossad agent, and had used his Mossad affiliation as a means to infiltrate U.S. intelligence. The implications of the Kalmanowitch case have also been buried, by the same net­work which protected Pollard. …

The agency which planted, protected, and paid Pollard is the Israeli-U.S. Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Foundation, an intergovernment organiza­tion which acts as a channel between the U.S. Treasury and State Department and the Israeli Defense Ministry and Mos­sad. The organization is a product of Henry Kissinger’s ten­ure at the State Department, and one of dozens which have been used to run joint U.S.-Israeli covert operations, of the sort typified by the Iran-Contra sales.

Key BIRD activists include:

  • Meir Amit, the former director of both the Mossad and Israeli military intelligence.
  • Yuval Ne’eman, minister of science and develop­ment, the former deputy director of military intelligence, and father of the Israeli nuclear bomb.
  • Dan Tolkowsky, former chief of the Israeli Air Force, and founder of one of Israel’s top arms smuggling firms, Elron-Elbit.
  • Itzhak Ya’akov, former chief scientist of the Israeli Defense Ministry, founder of BIRD, and currently U.S. sta­tion chief for the Defense Ministry’s intelligence agency, LEKEM.
  • Rafi Eytan, LEKEM chief and Pollard task-master.
  • Harold Katz, counsel of the Israeli Defense Ministry and BIRD.
  • Dr. Jordan Baruch, former assistant secretary at the U.S. Commerce Department.

Pollard was paid for his espionage by BIRD’s counsel, Harold Katz. He was tasked by the Israeli Defense Ministry’s intelligence agency, LEKEM, whose U.S. station chief is Itzhak Ya’akov. Pollard was protected by a network within the U.S. Justice Department, including former Criminal Di­vision director William F. Weld, and former Deputy Attor­ney General Arnold I. Burns, who are both linked to BIRD. The BIRD Foundation was established by treaty arrange­ment between the United States and Israel in 1977, based on discussions held in 1975 when Kissinger was Secretary of State. Its sister organization, the Binational Agricultural Re­search and Development (BARD) foundation, was formed the same year. Both organizations were modeled on the Binational Science Foundation (BSF), another U.S.-Israeli or­ganization, that had been formed under Kissinger in 1973.

As their names imply, the three organizations, which have overlapping governing boards, officially sponsor joint U.S.-Israeli industrial, agricultural, and basic scientific re­search. The joint projects, and associated conferences, have provided traveling Mossad officers the means to find new U.S. scientists and industrialists to recruit. These operatives have naturally targeted major U.S. university science de­partments and aerospace firms for penetration.

BIRD, BARD, and the BSF maintain an endowment of $300 million in Israeli banks. One bank known to be tied to the BIRD network is the Bank of Boston, which Harold Katz had used to pay Pollard for his espionage. In 1984, then U.S. Attorney in Boston William Weld protected the Bank of Boston, when it was caught laundering over $2 billion in illicit funds used to finance intelligence operations such as BIRD’s.

U.S. intelligence sources stress that the secret to the BIRD network is the petro-dollar recycling apparatus established by Kissinger following the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. As a result of that war, oil prices skyrocketed, and the Persian Gulf oil states were suddenly inundated by massive amounts of U.S. dollars. These petro-dollars, however, were never, ever sub­stantially controlled by the Arab states, but simply siphoned back into the Western banking system …

These petro-dollars have various illicit uses. These in­clude financing “off-budget,” “privatized” U.S. intelligence operations, outside the knowledge and reach of Congress and even the White House. The use of such schemes has now been made famous by the Iran-Contra affair. The postwar U.S. intelligence community first used such techniques when it began to fund its operations through the sale of Southeast Asian heroin. The BIRD network, and its associated covert banking apparatus, is simply one such “off-budget,” puta­tively U.S.-Israeli capability, that has been financed by pe­tro-dollars and dope.

Since 1973, in particular, the post of assistant secretary of the Treasury for international affairs has been one of the most important in U.S. intelligence, since occupying that position ensures the continuing protection of this “unofficial” apparatus. Significantly, the occupant of that post is also automatically a member of BIRD’s six-man governing board.

It is no coincidence that Assistant Treasury Secretary David C. Mulford had been the principal foreign adviser to the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) about how it should handle its petro-dollar investments, prior to his Trea­sury appointment in 1984. Mulford’s post in Riyadh, begin­ning 1975, was held by virtue of the fact that he was the director of international operations at White, Weld, William Weld’s family firm. Weld’s firm held an exclusive contract with Saudi Arabia, and a major contract with Kuwait, to manage their petro-dollars, and foreign investments, following the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.” (Brewda, 1988)

Thank you, Shayan, Jon, Bridget, Jeremy, Greg and Jaleel.