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A century after the exoneration of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, accusations of espionage against American Jew David Tenenbaum are found to be equally baseless.
News and Opinion

Religious Bias Found In Case
Orthodox Jew accused of spying for Israel.

-- Rabbi Avi Shafran

A final report just released by the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Defense backs the claim of an Army engineer accused over ten years ago of spying for Israel that he was unjustly targeted because of his religion.

The Army engineer, David Tenenbaum, was given a polygraph test in 1997 during which he said anti-Jewish epithets were shouted at him. The next day, he says, he found his computer gone and his name erased from the e-mail system at TACOM (the Tank Automotive and Armaments Command), the military facility in Warren, Michigan where he worked. He claims he was urged to confess to the crime of espionage but did not do so and was not arrested. Two days later, he says, on Shabbos, investigators ransacked his home.

After a year-long FBI criminal investigation, the U.S. Justice Department determined that there was no basis to prosecute Mr. Tenenbaum. Indeed, Mr. Tenenbaum maintained his innocence throughout and charged that he had been targeted for investigation because of his religion.

In March, 2006, Michigan Senator Carl Levin, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, asked the Inspector General of the Defense Department to conduct an independent review of the case, which he did and whose final conclusions are represented in the newly released report.

The report acknowledges that Mr. Tenenbaum was “the subject of inappropriate treatment by Department of the Army and Defense Investigative officials” by their use of a personnel security investigation “as a ruse for a counterintelligence investigation”; and that “Mr. Tenenbaum’s religion was a factor in the decision that resulted in the inappropriate continuation” of the investigation. “We believe,” it states starkly, “that Mr. Tenenbaum was subjected to unusual and unwelcome scrutiny because of his faith and ethnic background, a practice that would undoubtedly fit a definition of discrimination…”

Rabbi David Zwiebel, who represented Agudath Israel of America in pressing the Defense Department on the case, said that the report represented “a happy if belated resolution to Mr. Tenenbaum’s ordeal.” And, he added, “it is, further, a historic disavowal by the Defense Department of the notion that religious Jews are somehow to be regarded, by virtue of their religion, as untrustworthy employees of the government.”

That notion was in fact evident in a footnote to a 1996 briefing presented to Mr. Tanenbaum’s supervisor and other Defense Department officials, whose authors asserted that Israel “is known to try to exploit nationalistic and religious tendencies” of Jewish citizens of other countries.

At the beginning of 2000, Agudath Israel raised the issue with then-CIA Director George Tenet and, later that year, then-U. S. Defense Secretary William S. Cohen. The national Orthodox Jewish group expressed concerns about the allegations of anti-Jewish bias in the Defense Department and pressed for clarification of the government’s position on Jewish employees in general and on the case of Mr. Tenenbaum specifically.

The content of the final report, says Rabbi Zwiebel, “may at long last mark a turning point in the Defense Department’s attitude toward its Jewish employees.

“This is a welcome development – indeed a historic one.”

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