The Merchants of Fear: Israel’s Profiting from Homeland Insecurity

by Maidhc Ó Cathail / January 21st, 2010

In the wake of the weird Christmas Day “underwear bomber” incident on Northwest Flight 253,1
former Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff, as if on cue, was all
over the mainstream media touting whole-body scanners as the answer to
America’s airline security problems. Since leaving public office in
2009, Chertoff had co-founded the Chertoff Group, a security and
risk-management firm whose clients include a manufacturer of
body-imaging screening machines. While some in the media noted this
rather commonplace conflict of interest, ignored by all was a far more
significant abuse of the American public’s trust.

In a CNN interview, Chertoff cited the Detroit incident as “a very
vivid lesson in the value of that machinery.” One lesson that he hasn’t
drawn, however, was about the unreliability of the security firm which
allowed the young Nigerian Muslim without a passport to “slip through”
Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.2

ICTS International N.V., the Dutch-based security firm, was
established in 1982 by former members of Israel’s secret police, the
Shin Bet, and El Al security. Menachem Atzmon, who holds the
controlling shares in the firm, was convicted in 1996 for campaign
finance fraud while co-treasurer of the Likud party.3
The other co-treasurer Ehud Olmert, who was acquitted of those charges,
resigned as Israeli Prime Minister in 2008 amid multiple corruption
charges.

Although the rapid worldwide expansion of ICTS was no doubt helped
by the much vaunted reputation of Israeli aviation security, its record
abroad is less reassuring. In December 2001, the so-called “shoe
bomber” Richard Reid also slipped through ICTS security at Paris
Charles de Gaulle Airport to board a flight to Miami. And it was an
ICTS subsidiary, Huntleigh USA, that shared security duties at Boston’s
Logan Airport, where two of the four hijacked planes originated on
September 11, 2001.4

Interestingly, Michael Chertoff has close family ties to Israeli
aviation. His father, an American rabbi, married Livia Eisen, who was
an air hostess for El Al in the 1950s. “There are reports that she was
involved in Operation Magic Carpet, which brought Jews to Israel from
Yemen,” wrote Jonathan Cook in Israel and the Clash of Civilizations.
“It therefore seems possible that Livia Eisen was an Israeli national,
and one with possible links to the Mossad.”5

Somehow, nobody thought of asking Michael Chertoff whether his
mother had ties to a foreign country’s intelligence service during the
Senate confirmation hearing on his appointment as secretary of Homeland
Security in 2005. Most likely taking their cue from Senators Charles
Schumer and Joseph Lieberman, who endorsed their fellow Jewish Zionist
for the DHS job,6 the AIPAC-conscious Senate approved Chertoff by a vote of 98-0.

Normally hypersensitive to even the most tenuous links to Islamic
terrorism, Sens. Schumer and Lieberman were apparently unconcerned by
Chertoff’s 1998 legal representation of Dr. Magdy Elamir. The FBI had
filed a report charging Elamir with skimming money from an Islamic
charity to support al-Qaeda and financially supporting the al-Salam
mosque, which the “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel-Rahman used as a base of
operations for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.7

Moreover, there are suspicions that Chertoff, as head of the Justice
Department’s criminal division, may have been behind the deportation
for “immigration violations” of the 200 Israelis arrested in 2001 for
“suspicious activities” both before and after 9/11. According to a DEA
report, these Israeli “art students” had “recently served in the
Israeli military, the majority in intelligence, electronic signal
intercept, or explosive ordnance units.”8
As Antiwar.com editor Justin Raimondo wryly put it in his essential
book The Terror Enigma, “the probability that these are graduates of
the Mossad School of Art (summa cum laude) is certainly high.”9

But then again, how could one possibly doubt the patriotism of the
author of the USA PATRIOT Act? Whatever his other qualities, Chertoff
must be a fast writer. The 342-page document was signed into law on
October 26, 2001 – a mere 45 days after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Striking oil on 9/11

On October 11, 2001, exactly one month after 9/11, Senator Lieberman
introduced S. 1534, a bill to establish a Department of Homeland
Security. The bipartisan Department of National Homeland Security Act
of 2001 was co-sponsored by Republican Senator Arlen Specter,10 who is, perhaps not coincidentally, also a Jewish Zionist.

The day after 9/11, Benjamin Netanyahu let slip that the deaths of almost 3,000 Americans was “very good” for Israel.11
In particular, the mass murder was very good for an emerging sector of
the Israeli economy. In “Laboratory for a Fortressed World,” Naomi
Klein detailed the post-9/11 “explosion of Israel’s homeland security
sector.”12

“Before 9/11 homeland security barely existed as an industry,” Klein
wrote in 2007. “By the end of this year, Israeli exports in the sector
will reach $1.2 billion – an increase of 20 percent. The key products
and services are high-tech fences, unmanned drones, biometric IDs,
video and audio surveillance gear, air passenger profiling and prisoner
interrogation systems – precisely the tools and technologies Israel has
used to lock in the occupied territories.”

And the Department of Homeland Security, the Lieberman-Specter
brainchild then headed by Michael Chertoff, had become one of Israel’s
most reliable markets.13

“Israel has struck oil,” as Klein so aptly put it. “The oil is the
war on terror, the state of constant fear that creates a bottomless
global demand for devices that watch, listen, contain and target
‘suspects.’”

In order to exploit that resource to the full, Israel needed the
likes of Chertoff, Lieberman, Schumer and Specter to hype the concept
of “homeland security” in the United States. Americans, however, should
have been asking a couple of pertinent questions. Which homeland? And
whose security?

  1. Justin Raimondo, “The Weird Factor,” Antiwar.com, January 11, 2010. []
  2. Yossi Melman, “Israeli firm blasted for letting would-be plane bomber slip through,” Haaretz, January 10, 2010. []
  3. Lauder’s Ties to Bibi Raise Questions,” Jewish Week, January 29, 1999. []
  4. Patrick Martin, “Why is the American press silent on the Israeli role in NW Flight 253?” WSWS, January 16, 2010. []
  5. Jonathan Cook, Israel and the Clash of Civilizations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East, (London: Pluto, 2008), p.180. []
  6. Doug Ireland, “Mike Chertoff’s Dirty Little Secrets,” Common Dreams, January 12, 2005. []
  7. Sidney Blumenthal, “The law is king,” Salon, December 22, 2005. []
  8. Suspicious Activities Involving Israeli Art Students at DEA Facilities,” Drug Enforcement Agency, March 23, 2001. []
  9. Justin Raimondo, The Terror Enigma: 9/11 and the Israeli Connection, (New York: iUniverse, 2003), p.20. []
  10. A Brief Documentary History of the Department of Homeland Security: 2001-2008,” U.S. Department of Homeland Security. []
  11. James Bennet, “Spilled Blood Is Seen as Bond That Draws 2 Nations Closer,” New York Times, September 12, 2001. []
  12. Naomi Klein, “Laboratory for a Fortressed World,” The Nation, June 14, 2007. []
  13. Cook, p.125. []

Maidhc Ó Cathail is a freelance writer. His work has been published by Al Jazeera Magazine, Antiwar.com, Dissident Voice, Khaleej Times, Palestine Chronicle and many other publications. Read other articles by Maidhc.

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