Friday, August 08, 2008

Accused because he's Jewish

From BY DAVID ASHENFELTER • FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER • August 4, 2008 ( follow the link to the full article):

A Detroit-area military engineer accused in 1997 of passing secrets to the Israelis was targeted because of his Orthodox Jewish faith, the Defense Department's Office of Inspector General said in a report.

The report said David Tenenbaum, 50, of Southfield, who was suspected but never formally charged with espionage involving his job at the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM) in Warren, was singled out because he is an observant Jew.

Tenenbaum's lawyer, Mayer Morganroth of Southfield, said the bogus investigation prompted the Army to scrap Tenenbaum's 1995 project to improve the armor on Humvees, a decision that proved fatal to American troops who were sent to Iraq and Afghanistan in woefully inadequate fighting vehicles. "The discrimination in this case ended up costing American soldiers their lives," Morganroth said.

...Tenenbaum and his lawyers said the report proves that he was innocent and the victim of anti-Semitism. "You have no idea what it's like to have your loyalty questioned, to be accused of being a traitor," Tenenbaum told the Free Press last week. He wants an apology from the Army and his accusers punished.

The 62-page report, requested by U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was issued three weeks ago with little fanfare.

"It was well known that Mr. Tenenbaum was Jewish, lived his religious beliefs and by his actions appeared to have a close affinity for Israel," the report said. "We believe that Mr. Tenenbaum was subjected to unusual and unwelcome scrutiny because of his faith and ethnic background, a practice that would undoubtedly fit a definition of discrimination."

It said TACOM counterintelligence officials had Tenenbaum apply for a higher security clearance as "a ruse" to launch an improper spy investigation. The FBI is the only agency authorized to investigate civilians for espionage. The report said he lost his security clearance but eventually got it back and upgraded, a result that "suggests that Mr. Tenenbaum did not improperly disclose classified material."

...TACOM officials wouldn't comment on the report. Neither would John Simonini, a retired lieutenant colonel and TACOM's counterintelligence chief who spearheaded the investigation. The Army and Levin are reviewing the report, staffers said....

Differences spark suspicion
Tenenbaum, a Detroit-born son of a Holocaust survivor, was hired by TACOM in 1984 after obtaining engineering degrees from Wayne State University and working for a defense contractor in Troy. TACOM hired him to design safer combat vehicles.

The report said TACOM hired Tenenbaum because he speaks Hebrew, which officials viewed as an asset in working with Israel on joint projects....

...The report said Tenenbaum wore a yarmulke and adhered to strict Jewish dietary rules, prompting him to bring kosher food to work rather than joining coworkers for lunch at restaurants. Colleagues questioned why he was allowed to leave work early on Fridays to prepare for the Jewish Sabbath, the report said.

The FBI looked into the complaints but found no evidence of wrongdoing.

Accusations and deceit
...Unable to persuade the FBI to launch a spy probe, the report said, Simonini and others had Tenenbaum's boss request a top-secret security upgrade for Tenenbaum, which he didn't want because he worked on unclassified projects....

..." 'I've done other Jews before, and I've gotten them to confess, too,' " Tenenbaum said the examiner told him, according to the report.

...the examiner's report prompted the FBI to launch a criminal investigation, put Tenenbaum and his family under around-the-clock surveillance and searched his home on a Saturday -- the Jewish Sabbath. Agents carted out 13 boxes of the family's belongings, including their children's coloring books.

..."It was terrifying," Tenenbaum's wife, Madeline, said. "I felt totally violated."
In February 1998, one year after the raid, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Leibson in Detroit advised the FBI in Washington that the investigation had failed to turn up any evidence to charge Tenenbaum with espionage. "There is no question that if evidence existed which would prove this case, then these agents would have found it," Leibson wrote to the FBI.

...The report is a victory for civil rights, said Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, a Jewish human rights group. He said the Army needs to hold TACOM officials accountable, and he praised Tenenbaum's courage. "There was enormous pressure on him." Cooper said. "A lesser person would have folded. ... He stayed the course, and it's nice to see that, once in a while, the good guy comes out the winner."

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