By Carrie Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
For more than two decades after he allegedly furnished an Israeli operative with secrets about U.S. nuclear initiatives and sensitive weapons programs, Ben-Ami Kadish lived unnoticed by law enforcement authorities in suburban New Jersey.
Until yesterday, that is, when Kadish, 84, was arrested at his home, taken to a federal courthouse in Manhattan and charged with four counts of conspiracy allegedly for serving as an foreign agent and allegedly for lying to the FBI about a recent telephone conversation he had with his alleged Israeli handler.
Kadish, a mechanical engineer, worked at the U.S. Army's research arsenal in Dover, N.J., in the early 1980s. He routinely checked classified documents out of a library there and passed them to an unnamed Israeli official who had provided a list of what he wanted, according to a four-count criminal complaint the FBI filed yesterday.
The official photographed pages related to nuclear weaponry, the F-15 fighter jet program and the U.S. Patriot missile defense system, according to an FBI affidavit on which the complaint is based.
Kadish's actions appear to have escaped detection for years even though his handler allegedly also collected classified information from Jonathan Pollard, a former Navy intelligence analyst. Pollard is serving a life sentence in a federal prison in Butner, N.C., after pleading guilty to an espionage-related crime in 1986.
"It's a fascinating case of another agent in place, another sleeper, with the very same handler," said Joseph E. diGenova, the former U.S. attorney in the District who prosecuted Pollard. "We always suspected there were other people. His tradecraft was apparently better than Pollard's."
DiGenova said the espionage, which the charging documents indicate ceased in 1985, doubtless have come to the government's attention because of wiretap evidence obtained by the FBI and federal prosecutors in Manhattan. FBI agents first interviewed Kadish last month about his activities at the Army's Picatinny Arsenal, where he worked between 1963 and 1990, according to the filing.
Kadish, a U.S. citizen who was born in Connecticut, told the agents that he "borrowed" classified documents at the urging of his handler, who encouraged him to help "protect Israel" by sharing papers that had a "direct correlation to Israel's security." He accepted only small gifts and occasional family dinners in exchange for his services, the FBI said.
Kadish told Special Agent Lance Ashworth that between August 1979 and July 1985, he provided the handler with 50 to 100 documents, according to the affidavit.
The handler is identified in the criminal complaint only as "co-conspirator 1," but he has been named in Israeli publications and by a former prosecutor as Yosef Yagur. He lived in the Riverdale section of the Bronx and worked as an adviser on science affairs at the Israeli Consulate in New York.
Yagur left the United States in November 1985, shortly after Pollard was charged with espionage-related offenses, and has never returned.
The handler called Kadish's home at least 22 times between July and November 1985, according to an FBI account of the phone records. The two men have since allegedly maintained contact through periodic e-mail messages and phone calls. They met in Israel four years ago, but their dealings since 1985 have been "purely social," Kadish told investigators.
The handler and Kadish renewed their ties on March 20, according to the FBI affidavit, after federal agents interviewed Kadish for the first time. "Don't say anything," the handler allegedly said. "Let them say whatever they want. . . . What happened 25 years ago? You didn't remember anything."
The next day, FBI agents again questioned Kadish, who allegedly denied the call had taken place. His statements eventually became the basis for two criminal conspiracy charges that accuse him of hindering an investigation and of lying to law enforcement officials. He was also charged with conspiracy to serve as an Israeli agent and conspiracy to disclose documents related to U.S. defense programs.
A federal magistrate judge in New York released Kadish yesterday afternoon on a $300,000 personal recognizance bond secured by his home in Monroe Township, N.J. He was required to surrender his passport, and he will not be allowed to travel beyond New Jersey and New York.
Bruce Goldstein, a defense lawyer for Kadish, did not return calls. David Siegel, a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy, said that "we were formally informed of the indictment by the relevant authorities," but declined to comment further.
Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.