For weeks now, the FBI has carried out in the press a prosecution of individuals and organizations it has so far been unable or unwilling to pursue in court.
Using innuendo and a steady stream of (often recycled) press leaks, the names and reputations of a number of people "including several who are senior officials in the United States government at the moment" have been sullied.
There is no need to repeat their names here. Virtually all are people I have known and greatly admired for decades. It is bad enough their years of public service have been in any way diminished by those leaping to unfounded conclusions.
Even more troubling is the transparent character of this witch hunt: With apparently one exception, all those named in one way or another in connection with this inquiry (for example, they have been briefed on the matter, they run large Pentagon bureaucracies in which an individual suspected of misconduct or, perhaps, espionage works, etc.) have something in common: They are Jews.
At this writing, it remains unclear if any crime has been committed or, if it has, if any prosecution will be forthcoming. Unnamed FBI sources, though, keep telling the media the bureau has been interested for some time in a Washington-based diplomat representing the government of a democratic and strategically vital ally, Israel; two staff members of the influential American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC); and one midlevel Defense Department employee who may or may not be accused of sharing with the others a classified draft presidential decision memorandum on U.S. Iran policy.
Most press reports have in some way insinuated other people now or formerly associated with the offices of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney who have concerns about or responsibility for the Iran portfolio have also been of interest to the FBI. There is, mind you, no publicly available evidence to support this insinuation. Yet it persists from news cycle to news cycle.
The insidious implication is that people who are Jewish or for other reasons sympathetic to the Jewish State therefore embrace Israel's conviction that the Islamist, nuclear-arming, terrorist-sponsoring Iran government is a mortal threat that must be dealt with sooner, rather than later. According to this, U.S. interests are not at risk from Tehran, only Israeli ones.
Such suggestions call to mind past charges that people such as these have divided loyalties, are disposed to subordinate the security concerns of their own country to those of Israel or some larger Jewish conspiracy. "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" come to mind.
Today, anti-Semitic witch hunts can be dressed up as ideological conflicts between the Bush administration's so-called "hard-liners" and "moderates." The former are increasingly caricatured as "neoconservatives." For many who use this ill-defined term, though, it serves as an unmistakable, pejorative code word for "Jews."
To be sure, there are those in the U.S. government notably, in the State Department and CIA who have profound policy disagreements with key Defense Department decisionmakers. Acrimonious interagency disputes between these organizations, particularly about the magnitude of the danger from the Iranian regime and how best to counter it, have leached again and again into the public eye. This has been particularly true since President Bush's State of the Union declaration after September 11, 2001, that Iran was part of the "axis of evil."
A critical point: Simply writing off the attacks against senior Defense Department and other officials to bureaucratic rivalry obscures the fact Mr. Bush has made clear his own views about the Iranian mullahocracy. Those within his administration who evidently are feeding rumors and innuendoes seemingly hope to damage not just their rivals, but the commander in chief, himself. The piling on of Democratic legislators like Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and Rep. John Conyers of Michigan has simultaneously inflamed the situation and clarified the gambit with their demands, respectively, for intelligence committee investigations and special prosecutors.
If the conduct of hostile bureaucrats and Democratic partisans, reprehensible as it is, can at least be easily understood, the behavior of the FBI is less comprehensible. It would be one thing if law enforcement filed charges and presenting compelling evidence of wrongdoing and clarity as to who engaged in it. Without such information, however, one has to wonder whether it is purely coincidental that the FBI has, since September 11, been assiduously cultivating a constituency keenly interested in driving wedges between the U.S. and Israel, neutralizing AIPAC's considerable influence in Washington and diminishing the effectiveness of the most articulate advocates of President Bush's offensive strategy for the War on Terror.
The bureau reported to the September 11 commission that, over the past three years, its officials have held some 900 meetings with, among other constituencies (including Sheiks and Jewish groups), self-identified "leaders" of the Muslim-American and Arab-American community. The available record suggests that most, if not virtually all of the latter meetings including at least 19 with FBI Director Robert Mueller or his senior subordinates have been with representatives of groups long sympathic with Iranian or other Islamist causes.
It would be a dangerous irony if the witch hunt assailing prominent Bush administration Jews were to weaken a vital alliance, embolden our enemies and cause Mr. Bush acute domestic political problems to boot.
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JWR contributor Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. heads the Center for Security Policy. Comment by clicking here.