Israel’s U.S. Spy Network Aims to ‘Crush’ Student Activists Who Support Palestinian Rights

Interview with James Bamford, bestselling author, journalist and documentary producer, conducted by Scott Harris

U.S. college campuses have become ground zero for incendiary and sometimes dangerous debate over the latest bloody Middle East war. Since the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack that killed 1,200 Israeli men, women and children and abducted 240 civilians taken to Gaza as hostages, Israel’s retaliatory indiscriminate bombing of Gaza has killed more than 13,000 Palestinians.

An exponential rise in reports of anti-Semitic incidents and attacks across the country and on university campuses has been accompanied by a parallel spike in hate incidents targeting Muslims, reminiscent of post 9/11 Islamophobia.  Students and faculty members who vocally support Palestinian rights have been branded terrorist sympathizers, blacklisted for employment and “doxed,” resulting in harassment and death threats. Palestinian solidarity groups and Jewish Voice for Peace, groups that have organized protests demanding a ceasefire in Gaza have been suspended on many campuses.

In a new Nation magazine investigation, best-selling author, journalist and documentary producer, James Bamford uncovered an Israeli network of spies on U.S. college campuses, with links to Israel’s military intelligence agency, which has in recent years methodically targeted students and faculty who support Palestinian rights. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Bamford, who summarizes his findings in his investigative article titled, Israel’s War on American Student Activists.”

JAMES BAMFORD: My last book, which came out in January, Spyfail: Foreign Spies, Moles, Saboteurs, and the Collapse of America’s Counterintelligence, I focused on foreign countries spying on the United States. And I was very surprised to find actually about 25 percent of the book is dedicated to Israel spying on the United States in many, many ways, and the U.S. does nothing about it.

So one of the areas I discovered and wrote about more recently in the Nation magazine was this little known, almost unheard of group called Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC). What they do is they operate quite secretly. It’s made up largely of former AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) people. What they do is they gather information from informants on campuses all over the United States. Campuses particularly where there’s a lot of chapters of pro-Palestinian groups. So they have these informants on these campuses that tell the ICC what’s going on, who’s doing what. They give names of the students and the professors who are involved in these activities. And they give it all to this ICC group in Washington.

Al Jazeera, a few years ago, did an undercover investigation. And they had this Jewish guy that was going to play a major role pretending to be a pro-Israeli activist. And his name was Tony Kleinfeld. So he went up to the ICC and he talked to the head of the ICC and asked him what they were doing. And because they thought he was an activist for the Israeli causes, they told him a lot of information about what was going on.

And what they said basically was that they collect all this information from their sources on the campuses. They have millions and millions of dollars worth of Israeli technology to listen in on all these chat groups and so forth. They said they had a budget, I think it was around $9 million. And they have connections to the Israeli intelligence. And they made it sound like they were basically a military organization.

And they formed this intelligence brief and they share it with the Ministry of Strategic Affairs in Israel intelligence organization. There’s this information that comes from this group that’s made up of basically spies on campuses, and it’s passed on to the Israeli government. It’s horrible that it’s going on and the U.S. does nothing about it.

SCOTT HARRIS: James, I’m wondering, in your research what have you found is being done with this intelligence, this spy craft on college campuses? What is this group, Israel on campus Coalition and their counterparts in Israel and military intelligence? What are they doing with this information?

JAMES BAMFORD: Well, I’ll give you one of the quotes. This is from the head of the organization, Jacob Baime. When Tony Kleinfeld, the undercover operative was speaking to him on a hidden camera he said, “We built up this massive national political campaign to crush them.” “Them” being Palestinian supporters, activist groups, and so forth. Name and shame is what they call it. And they do it secretly.

They also set up a nationwide troll farm. It was organized out of Tel Aviv, and they had these programs that over a thousand students pretty much had in the United States. They were linked to the Israeli troll farm. And the troll farm would be working in coordination with the Israeli intelligence. So if there was some activists that was protesting Israeli activity, a command would go out from the head of the troll farm to all the members of the troll farm in the United States. And they would hide their connection to Israel and then they’d all send nasty emails, or tweets, or text messages, whatever, accusing these people of being anti-Semitic or terrorists.

SCOTT HARRIS: Well, James Bamford, the Israel on Campus Coalition is really operating as a foreign agent, which under my understanding is illegal under U.S. law. What is the FBI’s response to this information? I know they didn’t read about it first in your Nation article. They’ve probably known about this for some time. What should the United States be doing about this?

JAMES BAMFORD: Like you said, yeah, I can’t see why nothing is done about it except for the fact that there’s enormous political pressure on the FBI. I’ve been writing about these things for decades. So I have a lot of contacts within the FBI, particularly at the agent level. And I talk to them all the time about it. And they just are very, very angry because they know this is going on, and they try to make cases against these people, but they go nowhere.
One of the people I spoke to was a former head of the counterintelligence division of the FBI, and he basically said, “Yeah, we build cases, they go to the Justice Department and nothing ever happens.

Listen to Scott Harris’ in-depth interview with James Bamford  (17:50) and see more articles and opinion pieces in the Related Links section of this page.

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