Archive for April 22nd, 2010

Israel First: More on Dr. Lani Kass

Israel First: More on Dr. Lani Kass

Posted By Philip Giraldi On April 21, 2010 @ 11:00 pm

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My recent account of the career of Dr. Lani Kass was based on what has appeared about her in the public record and media, including her own comments regarding national defense and security policy.  To recapitulate, Kass was born, raised, and educated in Israel.  She has a PhD in Russian studies and is fluent in Russian and Hebrew in addition to English.  Kass reportedly reached the rank of major in the Israeli air force before moving to the United States and working her way up through the US defense establishment.  She is currently the most senior civilian adviser to Air Force Chief of Staff Norton Schwartz and is believed to have access to most American defense secrets.  Kass is best known to the public for her role in promoting Air Force cyberwarfare, but she also appears to have been a major player in counter-terrorism policy and in war preparations directed against Iran even though she has no actual substantive background in those areas.  She believes that the US is engaged in a long war against Islamo-radicalism and that “winning” against Iran is necessary but the American people must be willing to pay the price to succeed.

My concern regarding Dr. Kass is based on the potential conflict of interest and divided loyalty that is normal in anyone who is born in one country and moves to another.  She comes from a country that has a history of large scale and highly aggressive espionage directed against the United States and she appears to continue to have close ties to her birthplace.  Dr. Kass has become a naturalized American while apparently retaining her Israeli citizenship and her three children were reportedly born in Israel, not the United States.  The information she has access to would be extremely valuable to Israel and potentially damaging to US interests, particularly as she likely knows what the US Air Force response to a unilateral Israeli attack on Iran would be.

The issue of Israel aside, one might reasonably argue in any event that a senior officer in any foreign country’s military establishment should be considered an undesirable candidate for a top post in the Pentagon on security grounds.  If Dr. Kass were a dentist it would make absolutely no difference where she came from and what her political views might be, but a person’s ultimate loyalty is not just an abstraction for someone who has relatively free access to the Defense Department’s most highly classified information and is probably also able to influence policy.

I continue to question to what extent Kass has been properly security vetted for her position, to include rigorous inquiry into whether or not she still has ties to the Israeli government. I also can only speculate at the type of advice that Kass is providing to her Pentagon associates as she appears to embrace particularly hard line views about Muslims and about the desirability of going to war with Iran, positions that are rather similar to those promoted by the Israeli government.

Additional information has come to light on Kass that heightens my concern about her high position in the United States government’s defense and security establishment.  Her first job in Washington was with the Advanced International Studies Institute (AISI), a Washington DC area based think tank.  After being recommended by someone at the Pentagon, she was hired for her Russian language skills in an unclassified program funded by the Department of Defense called Soviet Watch.  Her fellow employees understood that she was a former major in Israeli intelligence.  A few months later she moved on to beltway bandit Booz Allen Hamilton.  Some months after she departed AISI, one of her colleagues received a call from a personnel manager at the Industrial War College asking to confirm Kass’s employment with AISI.  The Industrial War College was, as the name implies, an institute set up to coordinate industrial production with Defense Department needs.  Some of its work was classified.  Kass’s colleague told the caller that Kass was an intelligence officer who thought of herself as an Israeli and added that putting her in any position of influence would be a bad idea.

From there and then to here and now has taken more than twenty years, proceeding through a number of Defense Department positions with ever-increasing responsibility and access.  It would not be out of place to observe that if the report that Kass was truly an intelligence officer for the Israeli Defense Forces is correct the Department of Defense security screeners should have erred on the side of caution based on the supposition that she was still in touch with her former employers. She should never have been given a security clearance and provided access to United States classified information in the first place, which again raises the issue of just if and how thoroughly her background was actually investigated.

More information has also been developed regarding Kass’s current role.  According to a highly reliable source, Dr. Lani Kass is now the principal adviser to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen regarding the Middle East. She recently was involved in a very important meeting, one that concerned Israel.

The meeting took place because of concerns that the United States has been losing the “war of ideas” in the Muslim world.  At the end of last year, General David Petraeus sent a special emissary out on a fact finding mission to meet with the heads of state and top military officers in all of the Muslim countries considered to be friends or allies of the US for a frank exchange of views.  The emissary, an Arabic speaker, learned that no country any longer trusts the United States because it is widely believed that all American policies in the Near East region are subject to veto by Israel.  It was also commonly observed that Washington is complicit in the genocide against the Palestinians because of its failure to do anything to restrain Israel, making it extremely difficult to rally popular support in any Muslim country for US policies.

Petraeus was surprised by the unanimity and emotion of the views that were confidentially expressed and thought the issue to be important enough to move it up the chain of command.  In February, he met with Admiral Mullen and briefed him on his findings.  Mullen was accompanied only by Dr. Lani Kass, who was described to Petraeus as his special assistant for the Middle East.  Mullen expressed some dismay at the implications of the findings while Kass disputed Petraeus’ conclusions and said that the concerns being expressed were greatly exaggerated.  Petraeus nevertheless presented his report to the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 17th together with his judgment that the failure to address the Palestinian issue was putting US soldiers in danger because it was inflaming anti-American sentiment and giving groups like al-Qaeda an unnecessary propaganda victory.

One might argue that Dr. Lani Kass is just another Israel firster who has risen to high office in the US government, not really unlike Dennis Ross, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Elliott Abrams, and Douglas Feith.  And that might well be true.  But at the same time one must challenge the judgment of those who enabled her rise to a position of great responsibility and power and there should be serious questions about whether her bellicose and racially tinged viewpoint comes from objective and honest analysis of the genuine challenges confronting the United States or from her loyalty to her country of birth.

Read more by Philip Giraldi
•Dr. Strangelove, Made in Israel ( – April 14th, 2010
•Nuking the Mullahs ( – April 7th, 2010
•Honest in the Worst Way – March 31st, 2010
•The Crisis That Wasn’t – March 24th, 2010
•Some Rogue Regimes Are Less Rogue Than Others – March 17th, 2010


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Attacking Richard Goldstone
Personal attacks on the man who investigated the Gaza conflict by defenders of Israel are wrong.

Daniel Terris

9:21 AM PDT, April 21, 2010

The worldwide Jewish community can be thin skinned about criticism of the policies of the state of Israel, but the vitriol reached a new low last week. After members of the South African Jewish community threatened to disrupt the ceremony if he attended, Justice Richard Goldstone, author of a controversial United Nations report on the conflict in Gaza, canceled plans to attend his grandson’s upcoming bar mitzvah ceremony in Johannesburg.

The Goldstone report, released in September, concluded that both Israel and Hamas committed war crimes during the conflict in Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009, and that both had deliberately targeted the other side’s civilian population in attempts to achieve their goals. It recommended criminal investigation and possible prosecution of those found responsible.

It is completely appropriate for critics to scrutinize, question and discuss the facts and conclusions of the Goldstone report. Intellectual and political dispute is deeply woven into Jewish learning, tradition and communal life, and the welfare of the state of Israel rightly engages the deepest passions of the Jewish people.

But prominent critics of the report quickly made the leap from debate to invective. Israeli President Shimon Peres called Goldstone “a small man, devoid of any sense of justice.” Alan Dershowitz of Harvard Law School called him “a traitor to the Jewish people.” An Israeli minister and numerous blog posts have labeled him an anti-Semite.

And now this. Threats that his grandson’s bar mitzvah would be disrupted if he attended have forced Goldstone to make the agonizing decision to stay away from one of the sacred milestones of his grandson’s life.

One leading rabbi explained the feelings of members of the South African Jewish community to the Center for Law and Justice: “[T]hey believe he put Israel in danger, and they wouldn’t like him to be getting honor” by being called to the altar as part of the bar mitzvah ceremony. Goldstone clearly felt that after seven months of personal attacks, he could not put his family through yet another ordeal.

This is a man who courageously challenged apartheid in his native country two decades ago; who helped build the first international war crimes courts since Nuremburg; who last year won the MacArthur Foundation Award for International Justice; and who has served on the board of governors of Hebrew University. Goldstone currently chairs the advisory board of the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life at Brandeis University, which I direct.

This incident did not come out of the blue. And it is not just about one man’s family occasion or about the content of one United Nations report. It grows out of a climate in which defenders of Israeli government policy have increasingly resorted to personal attacks on the government’s critics. Jewish leaders around the world should decry the kind of personal attacks Goldstone has endured and speak out more forcefully against those who resort to personal attacks in an attempt to delegitimize Israel’s critics.

It is especially important that those who disagree with the Goldstone report make clear their opposition to such personal attacks. Rep. Gary Ackerman of New York, who has led the opposition to the Goldstone report in the U.S. Congress, should be commended for his letter of outrage to the South African Zionist Federation. Others should follow suit.

Preventing Goldstone from attending his grandson’s bar mitzvah isn’t standing up for Israel. Labeling Jewish critics of Israel as traitors or anti-Semites isn’t standing up for the Jewish people. Such steps are instead a brand of hatred that represents a direct assault on Jewish values of tradition and justice and conscience.

Daniel Terris is director of the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life at Brandeis University.

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