May 8, 2002
10:56 PM   Subscribe

A fascinating Salon (Premium, alas) article asks why we haven't heard more about the purported Israeli art student spy ring. Depending on who you ask, there's either nothing *to* ask, or there's a cover-up of positively Oliver Stone-ian proportions underway. Riveting reading, whichever explanation you subscribe to.
posted by artifex (20 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
So who's going to share their premium password?
Not that I would condone such abuse.
posted by muckster at 11:25 PM on May 8, 2002

Around this same time period (Early 2001), in Phoenix, AZ two Israeli art students stopped in at our Internet start-up's offices hocking paintings. The girl was beautiful (see article below to confirm DEA comments on how the girls were "lookers") and very chatty. She talked about how she was an artist from Jerusalem going to school there and that they were here raising money for their education.

Now, here is where my experience confirms to me, that I had actually met a couple of these people:
1. We worked on the 12th floor, where our offices directly overlooked the Federal Courthouse in Phoenix.
2. Our office building housed an entire floor of U.S. Marshalls.
3. We asked them to come back the next day (when we would have cash) and they said they were only in town for the day (see article for more details on there rapid movements from city to city).

This article has a lot more info (looks like it is a copy of the Salon article).

posted by nix at 11:48 PM on May 8, 2002

Fascinating, nix. This is why I love Metafilter.
posted by donkeyschlong at 11:59 PM on May 8, 2002

More resources courtesy of, including an alleged leaked DEA memo.

On preview: that is the Salon article. And just as I was going to offer to swap my premium password for a suicide girls password, darn it.
posted by homunculus at 12:09 AM on May 9, 2002

It would seem to be a highly incompetent and foolish idea to send 140 people (all with the same story, and readily identifying themselves as Israelis), most of whom seem to have little experience in espionage including basic things like not getting arrested and detained around federal buildings, or carrying pictures of various US agents.

The Mossad and other Israeli security services have bungled publicly in the past, but something that ridiculous seems to be off the charts, and makes no sense from an espionage point of view to be anything other than a cover for something else.

But you never know, everything about this case is bizarre. There might be any number of explanations... with the vast majority of those 'involved' probably in the dark.
posted by chaz at 1:16 AM on May 9, 2002

Somebody sweep that artwork for bugs.
posted by chipr at 1:49 AM on May 9, 2002

Holy crap, that DEA doc has passport numbers, DOBs, and full names on it! Unless they're all fake you could track those people down. Hell, if they're fake they’re easily found out to be so.

“SPI Contract Guard William Armstrong purchased a painting for $200.00”

hehe. Sucker.

“A search of their apartment revealed a small amount of marijuana and a "bong"”

Regular super agents these folks.

This is one of those scary things that people understand is going on all the time, but we never hear about. Like the US bugging a plane to be shipped to the leader of China or Russia digging tunnels underneath an American embassy.

Federal Agents, like the guy calling himself Stability, talked about patriots and bunker mentatlites. That sounds like so much Spy Game bs, but when you get them going, or drunk, they really do talk like that.
posted by raaka at 2:11 AM on May 9, 2002

Like the US bugging a plane to be shipped to the leader of China

Except that that has not been conclusively esablished.

The Chinese silence over the whole incident was quite interesting, especially regarding the hard line they took with the spy plane debacle shortly before.
posted by syzygy at 6:07 AM on May 9, 2002

What a nut!

Shortly after this, I received a call from an individual who identified himself only by the code name Stability. Stability said he was referred to me from "someone in Washington." That someone turned out to be a veteran D.C. correspondent who has close sources in the CIA and the FBI and who verified that Stability was a high-level intelligence agent who had been following the art student matter from the inside. Stability was guarded in his initial conversation with me.

He said that people in the intelligence committee were suspicious about my bona fides and raised the possibility that someone was "using" me. "Your name is known and has been known for quite a while," Stability said. "The problem is that you're going into a hornet's nest with this. It's a very difficult time in this particular area. This is a scenario where a lot of people are living a bunker mentality."

He added, "There are a lot of people under a lot of pressure right now because there's a great effort to discredit the story, discredit the connections, prevent people from going any further in investigating the matter. There are some very, very smart people who have taken a lot of heat on this -- have gone to what I would consider extraordinary risks to reach out. Quite frankly, there are a lot of patriots out there who'd like to remain alive. Typically, patriots are dead..."

Hollywood can't write stuff this bad! This must have been lifted off the FreeRepublic.

This is a scenario where there is a lot of heat on the bunker! Certain individuals have made great efforts to make certain information known in certain circles! You identity has been known for a long time! But someone is using you!

This is fantastic. Tom Clancy has never been so poorly plagerized.
posted by Mid at 6:27 AM on May 9, 2002

We discussed this extensively here more than a month ago.
posted by Mo Nickels at 7:53 AM on May 9, 2002

There have been new developments since then, Mo. It's called news.
posted by donkeyschlong at 9:34 AM on May 9, 2002

It wasn't a remonstrance.
posted by Mo Nickels at 10:46 AM on May 9, 2002

Sorry about that, mate. Misread ya.
posted by donkeyschlong at 10:56 AM on May 9, 2002

A few months ago an Israeli art student came to my office building peddling paintings. I work for an online publisher and we are the only occupant of the building. We're far from any government offices that I know of. Are we the only office in the country that has been visited by Israeli art students that isn't near a government office?
I have a wild theory that these people who call themselves Israeli art students and go around peddling paintings are -- gasp -- Israeli art students who are peddling paintings.
posted by Holden at 12:05 PM on May 9, 2002

Holy crap, that DEA doc has passport numbers, DOBs, and full names on it!

Yeah, I'm amazed it's there at all. I wonder what laws govern publication of leaked government documents. I also wonder if the DEA and DOJ read Salon (the link was in the Salon article.)

I'm going with the theory that the "lookers" are Mossad just because it appeals to my fantasies about sexy spies.
posted by homunculus at 12:10 PM on May 9, 2002

There have been new developments since then, Mo. It's called news.

Well actually there haven't been any developments since then. That's the point. The media isn't touching the story and any law enforcement professional trying to investigate puts his career at risk.
posted by euphorb at 12:30 PM on May 9, 2002

“A search of their apartment revealed a small amount of marijuana and a "bong"”

Regular super agents these folks.

Well, doesn't that make sense? If a spy was trying to pull herself off as an art student a bong would be a prerequisite in case of a search. Sure its more trouble than its worth, but it lends credibility to their stories.

Passport irregularities have been reported. A review of their passports shows travel to several other countries, to include Thailand, Laos, India, Kenya, Central and South America, Australia, Germany, Amsterdam, and Canada. One individual presented a Canadian citizenship card along with his Israeli passport.

Busy students eh?
posted by skallas at 12:53 PM on May 9, 2002

Hey, those Jews are so crafty, I'll believe anything!
posted by mikegre at 1:10 PM on May 9, 2002

this is incredibly spooky to me.

see, about two years ago, my friend met some kids from israel who were visiting the us -- a guy and a girl (who was, as I recall, quite attractive). they were huge fans of acid techno and as such, and got along quite well with my friend (who happens to be a DJ.)

they eventually arranged to buy some e from my friend (quite a bit, if i remember correctly). I remember they came by a bit before my friend had arrived home for work or something and stopped by my house (we lived rather close together back then) to hang out for a bit. They noticed the stretcher bars lying in my room, and said, "oh, you've got stretcher bars -- do you paint?". I told them i did on occaision and asked them if they were painters, and they said "yes, that's what we do. We go door to door selling paintings."; and I remember at the time thinking this was really odd -- i think i even asked them how they made money doing this kind of thing, and they said it was pretty lucrative, or implied that they were able to sell a lot of work or something.

anyhow, the thing i remember most is what they said when we kinda reprimanded them for saying "e" and "pills" and what not on the phone. The girl looked slightly distressed, and said "But you must understand, we are just simple kids from israel. we don't know any of the laws here."

i don't know if there's any connection (except, well, it involves MDMA and israeli kids selling art), but i remember my friend being a bit sketch about the deal, because he didn't really know these guys, and i remember they disappeared shortly after. i don't know. maybe his spidey sense was tingling for a reason.

btw. DEA agents, if you're reading this: i made this all up, please disregard... thanks.
posted by fishfucker at 3:11 PM on May 9, 2002

My guess is that they are probably operatives for Israeli drug smugglers or something.

Although the massive fakeout theory is kind of intresting too :P
posted by delmoi at 3:43 AM on May 10, 2002

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