Bill Would Force NASA Cooperation with Israel Despite History of Israeli Espionage

Bill Would Force NASA Cooperation with Israel Despite History of Israeli Espionage

Cover Image from a report by Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Lab on NASA research projects. An Israeli grad student is alleged to have given classified JPL research to Israel’s space ministry.

A bill currently before Congress would bind NASA to cooperate with Israel’s Space Agency, despite the latter’s history of espionage against the United States.

By Whitney Webb, reposted from MintPressNews

A bill that was passed by the U.S. Senate in early August and is currently under consideration by the House would mandate that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) work closely with the Israel Space Agency (ISA) despite the fact that such cooperation in the past was used by Israel to steal U.S. state secrets.

The provision is tucked within the bill titled the “United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2018,” which would also provide Israel with $38 billion in U.S. military aid over a ten-year period, the largest military aid package in U.S. history. MintPress News previously reported that this massive aid package translates into approximately $23,000 every year for every Israeli family. However, the provision pertaining to NASA, which was first identified by the website If Americans Knewhas largely gone unreported.

According to the current text of the bill, NASA and the Israel Space Agency are mandated to work together “to identify and cooperatively pursue peaceful space exploration and science initiatives in areas of mutual interest, taking all appropriate measures to protect sensitive information, intellectual property, trade secrets, and economic interests of the United States.” The text also references past agreements established between NASA and the ISA such as the first mutual cooperation agreement, signed in 1996, and the 2015 “Framework Agreement for Cooperation in Aeronautics and the Exploration and Use of Airspace and Outer Space for Peaceful Purposes” as the basis for this “continuing cooperation.”

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and director general of the Israel Space Agency Avi Blasberger signed a joint statement to expand cooperation between the two countries. Matty Stern | U.S. Embassy Jerusalem

Absent, however, from the bill’s text is the fact that the ISA has used this cooperation in the past to steal classified U.S. information and to conduct espionage. For instance, a lawsuit filed in November 2014 by physicist Dr. Sandra Troian detailed how an Israeli postdoctoral student at Caltech, Amir Gat, blatantly violated U.S. law by illegally transmitting to Israel classified information on NASA technology.

According to court documents, the theft of classified information took place at Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, an important NASA research and development center. Gat now lives in Israel and works at ITT, an Israeli government institution.

Yet, instead of attempting to stop the espionage, Caltech administrators sought to silence Troian, in violation of the school’s whistleblower policy, and retaliated against her for speaking up, including engaging in efforts to have her fired.

Troian maintains that the school was afraid of taking her concerns seriously, as it would have put the university’s $8 billion contract with NASA at risk and cast the institution in a bad light. Also of note was the fact that the Obama administration showed no interest in the case despite its repeated use of the Espionage Act to target legitimate government whistleblowers.

Thus, the Caltech incident — and the lack of accountability and the effort to silence whistleblowers that ultimately ensued — greatly weaken the bill’s claim that “all appropriate measures to protect sensitive information, intellectual property, trade secrets, and economic interests of the United States” will be followed. Despite the gravity of this incident, the inclusion of this NASA-related provision in the pending bill leaves an open door for such espionage to again take place, to the detriment of U.S. “national security.”

However, as the Trump administration has shown, the “national security” of the U.S. and of Israel have become profoundly intertwined, as President Trump’s campaign promises of “America First” quickly devolved into “Israel First” — thanks largely to the influence of Trump’s largest donor, Zionist billionaire Sheldon Adelson. Thus, concerns about Israeli espionage seem to be of little import to the current administration as well as to many members of Congress — particularly those greatly influenced by powerful organizations of the Israel lobby, such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

A long-standing double standard

Yet, failure to prevent or punish Israeli espionage in the United States has long been a common policy in Washington that significantly predates the Trump administration. With the notable exception of former U.S. government contractor and Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, the Israel lobby and pro-Israel billionaire donors have been largely successful in obtaining presidential pardons or lenient sentences for alleged Israeli spies.

A clear illustration of this double standard is the case of Colonel Lawrence Franklin, a case that clearly illustrates that espionage, when conducted by Israel, is not treated as seriously by the U.S. government as other cases of espionage. Franklin, a former employee at the U.S. Department of Defense, pled guilty to espionage in 2006 for giving classified information to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), as well as directly to Israeli officials, in an attempt to pivot U.S. military forces engaged in Iraq towards Iran.

The Bush administration successfully pushed the Justice Department to pardon Franklin’s co-conspirators and then pushed Justice to reduce Franklin’s 13-year prison sentence to 10 months of house arrest. Subsequently, members of U.S. Congressasked Obama to pardon Franklin in 2016, asserting that “his [Franklin’s] intentions were to save lives and protect this great country” despite the fact that Franklin had sought to involve the U.S. in a war with Iran in order to benefit Israel.

Thus, the current NASA provision in the United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2018 would ostensibly continue this practice of “turning a blind eye” to Israeli interference and espionage in the United States if the bill is passed in the coming weeks.

Top Photo | NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and director general of the Israel Space Agency Avi Blasberger signed a joint statement to expand cooperation between the two countries. Matty Stern | U.S. Embassy Jerusalem

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The bill has already passed the Senate, and is now being considered in two House committees:  Armed Services and Science, Space, and Technology. (Click on each committee to see its members.) For more information see this. To contact your Congressional representative go here

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