FBI Investigates Foreign
Spy Ring - US Companies
Deny Involvement

By Charles R. Smith

In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the FBI reportedly stumbled on an espionage ring that had penetrated the wiretapping system of U.S. law enforcement. Fox News Channel reported that the FBI was holding nearly 100 Israeli citizens with direct ties to foreign military, criminal and intelligence services.
In a follow-up to these reports, the FBI did not deny that such actions had been taken. However, FBI spokesman Paul Bresson would not answer specific questions on the reported espionage.
"We have seen the Fox News segments that aired several weeks ago on this topic and found some inaccuracies with it. Because they are sensitive issues, I do not have the luxury of discussing what precisely was accurate and what was inaccurate about their reporting," stated Paul Bresson, spokesman for the FBI.
"Most of the questions [asked by] are not directly answerable by CALEA [Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act]. Your questions may be more properly addressed to our National Security Division, which I know would never discuss this with you, unfortunately," stated Bresson.
Employees of U.S. Companies Reportedly Involved
The espionage operation reportedly includes employees of two companies that perform official wiretaps for U.S. local, state and federal law enforcement: Comverse Infosys and Amdocs. Official spokesman for both companies denied any involvement in the alleged espionage ring.
"Amdocs is unaware of any investigation or allegations and has not been contacted by any agency," stated Dan Ginsberg, of the PR firm Porter Novelli, for Amdocs.
"Amdocs has not been involved in any illegal or improper activity," said Ginsberg flatly.
"We know of absolutely no factual basis for suggestions that intelligence agencies or others have misused our products for illicit purposes," stated Paul Baker, spokesman for Comverse.
"In particular, no company employees have been involved in any of the incidents referred to in your December 19 story. Moreover, the reference in that story to a suspected abuse of our equipment in a foiled Los Angeles drug bust was completely erroneous. Our equipment was not involved in any such incident," said Baker.
"Comverse Technology is a New York-based corporation that has been publicly traded for 15 years. It is an S&P 500 and a NASDAQ-100 Index company that has won a worldwide leadership position in telecommunications," noted Baker.
"More than 10 years ago, Comverse established Comverse Infosys Technology as a separate subsidiary to meet the monitoring applications needs of some U.S. customers. This group maintains the high-level security clearances these customers require," said Baker.
"In full compliance with U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) regulations, this subsidiary's operations are completely segregated from all other Comverse businesses and are insulated from any foreign influence," said Baker.
"The board of directors overseeing these operations consists of former high-level military officers, including two retired Air Force generals appointed by the DOD. In addition, the DOD monitors Comverse Infosys Technology's operations to ensure they remain in full regulatory compliance.
"All equipment supplied by Comverse complies with all applicable government security requirements. The notion that 'backdoor' access has been built into the systems is absurd. For more than 10 years, these systems have been sold to customers in more than 40 countries, who have subjected them to rigorous and continuous security testing without a single reported breach," said Baker.
"As with any computer equipment that sits on a network, the Comverse systems are protected by the security measures and access restrictions imposed by the user of the network, whether a government agency or telephone operator. We fully support the evolving CALEA standard, and remain committed to maintaining our industry leadership in providing secure and reliable systems," concluded Baker.
FBI Response Raises Questions
Despite the extensive denials by Amdocs and Comverse, the curious response by the FBI has raised more questions than answers. Sources inside Capitol Hill are investigating the allegations and made no comments on the allegations of espionage at this time. However, the demands for answers continued to grow outside political circles.
"If national security is the overriding issue in the FBI's treatment of this case, the correct response to your questions should have been 'Sorry, we have no comment at this time,'" said Douglas Brown of the Nathan Hale Institute.
"Of course, the most reassuring response would have been 'There's no truth to the stories,' but apparently the bureau can't say that. Maybe the spokesperson is well-informed?" questioned Brown.
"Something is up. One of the things that gave the Fox report added credibility was 'investigators within the DEA, INS and FBI have all told Fox News that to pursue or even suggest Israeli spying through Comverse is considered career suicide.' I think it pretty much captures the bizzaro world U.S. law enforcement and intelligence continues to operate in during the post-Clinton years," said Brown.
"Everything is opposite still in their world, since the Clintonistas still control it. The more you screw up, the higher you go. Forget 'The West Wing' and 'The Agency' type shows, 'Seinfeld' reruns do a better job of capturing reality in D.C.," said Brown.
"If the Israelis have used the companies named in the Fox reports for intelligence purposes, it lies somewhere between the Liberty incident and Jonathan Pollard affair for outrageousness. Yet, if true, one has to admire the creativity and ingenuity of Israeli intelligence," said Brown.
Are Israeli Spies in the U.S.?
"First, they have taken advantage of a technically bumbling and compromised law enforcement and counterintelligence community and may have essentially made U.S. law enforcement wiretapping activities a branch of Israeli intelligence. It would be quite impressive if true," noted Brown.
"They have used their technical expertise in-house to identify and exploit cutting-edge technologies and companies. In gaining control over those technologies and companies, they would also have shown a deft handling of merger and acquisitions, personnel recruitment, and playing the capital markets.
"In addition, as publicly traded companies, private and institutional investors from around the world would be funding Israeli intelligence activities. Again, pretty impressive, if true, and really pretty much the model, or a variation of the model, now used by the intelligence agencies of China, Russia and some of our European allies," said Brown.
"If they [the Fox reports] do turn out to expose Israeli intelligence operations, one's admiration for Israeli ingenuity would be more than tempered by amazement at the sheer stupidity and recklessness of the Israelis' actions," noted Brown.
"First, they would have seriously damaged their relationship with the United States on many levels. Since that relationship is fundamental to Israel's existence, not a smart move.
"Second, while Israel, like the prodigal son, will always be able to ultimately rely on America's protection, Israeli high-tech companies are a major target for Russian intelligence and organized crime," stated Brown.
Damage to U.S.-Israeli Relations
"The prodigal son may have left our back door open to some of the most dangerous people in our global village. In other words, Israeli ingenuity in infiltrating and exploiting the U.S. high-tech industry may be seriously undermining the security and power of the country that is, in fact, the ultimate guarantor of its existence. Again, not a smart move," said Brown.
"Finally, if the Israelis are using such a modus operandus for penetrating U.S. high-tech companies and government agencies, it is not a method of operation appropriate or necessary for a close ally to engage in. The risk of backlash and recriminations are much too great. Russian and Chinese use of such methods is understandable and a natural evolution and outgrowth of intelligence operations conducted for decades, but Israel should adhere more closely to the more open and, unfortunately, usually perfectly legal methods used by allies like Japan," stated Brown.
"It looks like Louis Freeh may have another chapter to write in his memoirs - right after the Hanssen chapter," concluded Brown.
Also see: U.S. Police and Intelligence Hit by Spy Network.
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