A dual US-Israeli citizen working as an FBI translator was sentenced to 20 months in prison after he was caught passing on recorded conversations from FBI wiretaps of the Israeli embassy in Washington, The New York Times reported Monday.
The documents that were leaked included conversation with “US supporters of Israel and at least one member of Congress,” the Times reported.
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According to the paper, Shamai K. Liebowitz, a lawyer working as a Hebrew translator for the FBI, passed on the sensitive information to an American blogger out of fears that Israel may have been planning an attack on Iran, and was aggressive in its attempts to exert influence in the US Congress and public opinion.
Liebowitz allegedly felt that an Israeli attack on Iran, due to its weapons procurement program, would be detrimental both to the US and Israel.
Liebowitz, when practicing as an Israeli lawyer, once represented Marwan Barghouti.
The Ethics Committee of the Tel Aviv Bar Association, of which Liebowitz
is still a member, is currently investigating a complaint made against
the lawyer by the Israel Legal Forum.
The US, the Times story noted, regularly listens in on embassies in the
US, but spying on an ally as close as Israel is considered more
The blogger, Richard Silverstein, did not return The Jerusalem Post’s
attempt to reach him for comment prior to publication. Silverstein had
remained quiet about the case since Liebowitz was charged under the
Espionage Act nearly two years ago, and allegedly burned the documents
Liebowitz provided him in mid-2009. He told the Times that he decided to
go public about the case because he wished to defend Liebowitz’s
motives, which he called noble.
Silverstein has since deleted the posts from his online blog, Tikkun Olam, a liberal blog dedicated to US-Israeli relations.
Reactions to the news Monday varied dramatically throughout the press,
with many writers and Jewish figures posing questions that, as of yet,
The Atlantic Wire reported that David Shtulman of the Jewish Federation
of Greater Ann Arbor asked on Twitter: “Should revelations of US spying
on Israel impact US refusal to grant leniency to Pollard?” Meanwhile,
Marc Tracy of Tablet Magazine, referencing Liebowitz, asked, “why was a
guy who once favorably compared Barghouti to Moses an FBI translator?
Surely they could have found more ideologically neutral [translator].”