Monday, October 18, 2010

Did Israel sell out spy wannabe?

From the Washington Post SpyTalk column:
The government isn’t saying for which country Elliot Doxer allegedly volunteered to spy, but clues in court papers filed in Boston last week barely disguise that it was Israel.
Other hints in the government’s indictment suggest something even more intriguing: that Doxer got caught up in one of the oldest games in the espionage trade -- the dangle.
Israel is not named in the Oct. 6 indictment of Doxer, 42, an employee of Akamai Technologies Inc., a Web content delivery company in Cambridge, Mass. whose clients include the departments of defense and homeland security, Airbus and “some Arab companies from Dubai,” according to an e-mail Doxer wrote that was presented as evidence in the case.
But it does say that Boxer identified himself as "a Jewish American who lives in Boston" when he wrote to the local consulate of "Country X," and that he told an FBI undercover agent that his chief desire “was to help our homeland and our war against our enemies.”
Doxer’s alleged dalliance with espionage began in June 2006, when he e-mailed the consulate saying “I know you are always looking for information and I am offering the little I may have.”
A year later, according to the indictment, an undercover FBI agent posing as an intelligence operative contacted Doxer and asked him if he was still interested in spying.

The answer was yes, according to the feds, whereupon, over an 18-month period, Doxer unwittingly supplied documents to the FBI undercover agent and visited a pre-arranged dead drop -- a hiding place for documents and cash -- 62 times.
All he asked for, according to his e-mails, was "a few thousand dollars" and information about his son and the child's mother, "a terrible human being" who lived in "a foreign country."
"Not enough bad things can happen to her if you know what I mean," he added.
But how did Doxer’s alleged offer to spy for “Country X” get into the hands of the FBI?
According to Reuters, "Prosecutors said the foreign government cooperated with the investigation and the complaint against Doxer did not accuse that government of seeking or obtaining the sensitive information."
Indeed, veteran counterintelligence agents strongly suspect that Israeli intelligence officials smelled something fishy and ratted out Doxer to the FBI.
“There are two possibilities, of course” said a longtime CIA counterintelligence veteran, who discusses such sensitive matters only on terms of anonymity.
One, he said with sarcasm, is that “the GOI [government of Israel] forwarded the volunteer e-mail to the Bureau because they want to play by the rules.”
He laughed. As everyone in the spy trade knows, Israel and the United States spy on each other as much as they cooperate against targets like Iran, despite their rock-hard alliance.
As for Doxer, the counterintelligence veteran said, it’s more likely the Israelis “suspected the volunteer letter was sent by a double agent set up by the FBI. “
“One thing that any intel service reading a volunteer letter or e-mail would ask themselves is whether the volunteer is crazy and must be avoided…or whether the lack of common sense by the sender is an indicator that the ploy is a [counterintelligence] initiative.”
In short, they thought he might be a dangle, defined in the espionage lexicon as “a spy who poses as a walk-in to penetrate the other side.”
Or just “a dope,” as the counterintelligence veteran put it, a James Bond wannabe dimwitted enough to e-mail an espionage offer to a diplomatic outpost that is surely monitored by U.S. intelligence.
In any event, if this scenario is correct -- and three counterintelligence veterans aver that it is -- the Israelis got a two-fer from dropping a dime on Doxer: the solution to a headache and a thank you, no matter how surly, from the FBI.
I'm still not quite sure why they don't assume that emails to the Israel consulate are routinely monitored by the FBI, as I suggested when the story came out - especially if it is an open secret that the US and Israel spy on each other regularly. The court papers do not indicate that the message from Doxer was encrypted, and I would be surprised if those emails aren't monitored.

If the counterintelligence veterans that were contacted are correct, however, it means that Israel chose to sell out a Jew (albeit a stupid one) to the Feds in fear that he was a dangle.

(h/t Joel)