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News March 04, 2002
Report: U.S. Breaks Up Major Israeli Spy Ring; Speculation: Mossad Was Aware of Sept. 11 Preparations
Authorities in the United States have broken up a network of Israeli spies living in the US who were burrowing into the justice and defense departments, a French website specializing in intelligence matters reported Monday.

The site, Intelligence Online, said it had exclusive access to a US justice department report that showed "a huge Israeli spy ring operating in the United States was rolled up by the Justice Department's counter-espionage service" last year, AFP cited the site.

An estimated 120 Israelis were detained or deported as a result of the highly top-secret operation, which it said had began in April last year and was ongoing.

The Website reported the ring was active in the states of Arkansas, California, Florida and Texas, and was made up of around 20 cells of between four and eight members who were aged between 22 and 30 and had recently completed Israeli military service in an army intelligence division.

It named several Israelis alleged to be the espionage operatives, including 3 of 13 Israeli "art students" it said were arrested in the Texan city of Irving on March 26 and 27 last year.

Intelligence Online editor-in-chief Guillaume Dasquie told AFP that the network had been trying "to penetrate justice department and defense department systems" through drug-fighting agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which has access to files from other US departments.

"The DEA plays a central role in counter-espionage because of its internal security service, the Office of Security Programs, which was the first to notice the unusual behavior of young Israeli nationals among its agents," Dasquie said.

His Website reported the network's objectives included some of the most sensitive sites in the United States, such as the Tinker Air Force Base located close to Oklahoma City. It said the US Air Force had requested the help of the Justice Department last May in the investigation against the Israelis.

Dasquie added that US investigators were concerned by indications that some of the alleged Israeli spies had been based in the same US cities as people suspected of having helped in the logistics of the devastating September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

For instance, it had been established, he said, that a dozen Israelis, including the alleged surveillance leader, had been based in the Florida town of Hollywood between January and June last year.

US authorities have arrested another dozen people "suspected of being tasked with the logistics of preparing the September 11 attacks" in the same area, he noted.

Dasquie pointed out, however, that the "troubling" coincidence was still only one theory being looked into and that there was not enough information to determine whether Israel's Mossad secret service had been aware of the preparations for the September attacks.

"It has to be verified if these teams were in the same place at the same time before hypotheses are built up," he said. (Albawaba.com)



    
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