An 85-year-old former U.S. Army mechanical engineer was arrested Tuesday on charges he slipped classified documents about nuclear weapons to an employee of the Israeli Consulate who also received information from convicted Pentagon spy Jonathan Pollard, authorities announced.
Ben-ami Kadish was charged in U.S. District Court in Manhattan with four counts of conspiracy, including allegations that he disclosed U.S. national defense documents to Israel and acted as an agent of the Israeli government.
Prosecutors say Kadish, a U.S. citizen who worked at an Army base in New Jersey, took home classified documents for six years and let the Israeli photograph them in his basement. Those documents included information about nuclear weapons, a modified version of an F-15 fighter jet, and the U.S. Patriot missile air defense system.
Bruce Goldstein, a lawyer for Kadish, had no immediate comment. Calls requesting comment from the Israeli consulate in the U.S. were referred to Jerusalem, where Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Arye Mekel said: “We know nothing about it. We have nothing to say.”
A criminal complaint said Kadish confessed to FBI agents on Sunday that he had given the Israeli between 50 and 100 classified documents and accepted no cash in return, only small gifts and occasional dinners for him and his family.
Kadish worked at the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center at the Picatinny Arsenal in Dover, N.J. On numerous occasions between 1979 and 1985, the agent provided Kadish with lists of U.S. national defense classified documents he was interested in, according to the complaint. Kadish worked at the base from 1963 through 1990.
The complaint described a close relationship between the two men that continued beyond 1985, and included telephone and e-mail conversations exchanged as recently as Sunday.
The unidentified agent was described in the complaint as a one-time employee of Israeli Aircraft Industries, which since at least the late 1970s has been a defense manufacturing contractor for the Israeli government. The company is now known as Israeli Aerospace Industries.
From July 1980 through November 1985, the agent worked for the Israeli government as the consul for science affairs at the Israeli consulate in Manhattan.
The two men were introduced by Kadish’s brother, who at one time worked with the agent at the manufacturing plant in Israel.
The research center where Kadish worked on the Army base housed a library of documents, including many with classified information related to U.S. national defense. From 1979 through 1985, Kadish signed out at least 35 classified documents, according to the complaint.
Kadish told the FBI that he knew that one restricted document he provided to the agent included atomic-related information and that he did not have the required clearance to borrow it, according to the complaint.
Prosecutors say the Israeli called Kadish on March 20 and told him to lie to federal law enforcement agents who were investigating possible espionage.
“Don’t say anything. Let them say whatever they want. You didn’t … do anything. … What happened 25 years ago? You didn’t remember anything,” the man allegedly told Kadish in Hebrew.
In addition to the spying counts, Kadish is charged with conspiring to hinder a communication with, and to make a materially false statement to, a law enforcement officer. Those charges stem from the March conversation.
The Israeli worker left the United States in November 1985 and has not returned, according to the complaint, which described him as the same Israeli to whom Pollard provided classified information.
Pollard, a former civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy, pleaded guilty to transferring military secrets to Israel while working at the Pentagon. He is serving a life sentence in a U.S. federal prison.
The United States, Israel’s closest ally, provides about $2.2 billion a year in military assistance. In the last few years, the two nations have conducted tests to integrate the Israeli-made Arrow anti-ballistic missiles with the Patriot system to create a multilayered air defense system.
The U.S. deployed Patriot batteries in Israel in 1991, when Iraq fired 39 Scud missiles at Israel during the first Gulf war. The Arrow was jointly developed by Israel Aircraft Industries and Chicago-based Boeing Co. at a cost of more than $1 billion after the Patriots’ failed to intercept many of the incoming Scuds. Some reports said Patriots missed them all.