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The McGreevey Scandal

Here we go again. Another political bombshell hits the American people and there is yet another connection to the subterranean labyrinth of possible Israeli intelligence activities. New Jersey Democratic Governor Jim McGreevey’s announcement on August 12 that he was resigning because of his involvement in a gay relationship with an Israeli national may be the tip of an iceberg that represents another high-level Israeli attempt to burrow into the most sensitive areas of U.S. national security and our political process. The surprise announcement is also being used by a number of neo-conservative news outlets to tarnish the Democratic Party and absolve Israel of any connection to the New Jersey political scandal.

The ties between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s Russian-mafia infused government and shadowy Israeli and Eastern European ex-intelligence agents are beyond a doubt, according to international law enforcement officials. But what is not readily apparent is the fact that a number of Israeli off-the-books intelligence operatives are active inside the United States and they do not have U.S. national interests in mind. In particular, the Israeli-Russian mobsters and their allies within the Sharon government have adopted one of the most successful intelligence ploys used by the former KGB and East German Stasi–the use of prostitutes or “swallows” to gain intimate access to high Western politicians, so-called “sexpionage.” In the case of Israel, which welcomed a number of émigré former Eastern bloc intelligence agents during and after the Cold War, this has entailed the use of both female and male prostitutes. The fact that White House chief dirty tricks operator Karl Rove has close connections to the political spin machine run out of Sharon’s Jerusalem office is also a concern when it comes to Israeli-connected dirty tricks operations being run against Democratic politicians in the United States.

It should be remembered that New Jersey Democratic Senator Robert Torricelli was forced to drop out of his re-election race in 2002 because of leaks about his involvement with a contributor indicted on federal charges. Torricelli’s major problems in New Jersey arose after he was chastised for missing an important Senate vote supporting Israel. The Senate, at the time, was tenuously in the hands of the Democrats, who had a one-seat majority. However, Torricelli was replaced on the ticket by Frank Lautenberg, who went on to win the seat for the Democrats.

Jim McGreevey was a rising star in Democratic politics. As Mayor of Woodbridge, a New York City commuter suburb, McGreevey decided to opt for statewide political office. At the same time he appeared on the Israeli intelligence radar screens. In 2000, with his eye on the New Jersey statehouse, Mayor McGreevey joined a large delegation of New Jersey Jewish supporters in a political “mega pilgrimage” to Israel, where he met Golan Cipel, said to be a tour guide/information officer for the mayor of the Tel Aviv suburb of Rishon Le-Zion, the first Zionist settlement in Palestine. However, Cipel had previously been the press secretary for the Israeli consulate general in New York City. In 1999, Cipel, who is now being described as a one-time low-level Israeli government employee in New York and a “poet,” gave a speech on behalf of the Israeli government at a meeting at the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Madison Avenue offices on some very high profile issues, including the implications of the recent death of King Hussein of Jordan, the upcoming Israeli elections, and the peace process with the Palestinian Authority.

Cipel was also a former Israeli naval officer, leaving the service with the rank of lieutenant. How a person goes from an influential position with one of the most important Israeli diplomatic missions abroad to a mere Jerusalem area tour guide seems, on the surface, extraordinary. But in the world of intelligence, such career changes are driven by political necessity, not by choice. McGreevey’s admitted lifelong homosexuality also made him a likely target for an intelligence approach–and Cipel, who, as a 1998 graduate of the New York Institute of Technology and the New York Israeli consulate’s press spokesman, was more than familiar with north Jersey’s political and social terrain. And Cipel was no stranger to right-wing Republican politics. In 1995, Cipel and future Washington Times reporter Joshua Mitnick edited an Israeli consulate news wire called “Israel Line.” The Washington Times, owned by Rev. Sun Myung Moon, is a money-losing outlet for neo-conservative political opinion.

After McGreevey returned to New Jersey from Israel, Cipel also moved to Iselin, New Jersey and was hired by a billionaire Florham Park land developer and Democratic fundraiser named Charles Kushner, an individual who became the source for $250,000 for McGreevey’s campaign for the governor’s mansion. Kushner sponsored Cipel for a temporary work visa. After McGreevey was sworn in as governor, he named Kushner to the board of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the original owners of the World Trade Center. Kushner was recently indicted on federal charges of corruption involving a land deal and illegal campaign contributions.

Soon after McGreevey announced his candidacy for the governorship, Cipel became one of his campaign advisers. During 2001, in his role as McGreevey’s Jewish liaison adviser, Cipel received another temporary work visa that was sponsored by the New Jersey State Democratic Committee.

After McGreevey’s election, Cipel was named homeland security director for New Jersey, a $110,000 per year job. New Jersey sponsored Cipel for yet another temporary work visa just four months after a number of Israelis were rounded up and arrested by New Jersey police and Federal agents for photographing and celebrating the collapse of the Twin Towers on September 11. Cipel, who had no verifiable security experience, was touted by McGreevey’s administration as having gained his anti-terrorist credentials as a member of the Israeli Defense Force. An Israeli military expert told the Bridgewater, New Jersey Courier News that Cipel’s military record was “routine, at best.” In addition, Kathryn Flicker, an assistant attorney general for New Jersey, was appointed by McGreevey to head of the state counter-terrorism office but only after Cipel was strangely named as a parallel counter-terrorism official.

After both Republican and Democratic New Jersey legislators complained about Cipel’s lack of qualifications and the Federal government refused to grant him a security clearance because he was not a U.S. citizen, the Israeli national left his position as homeland security czar and took up his previous campaign job as McGreevey’s Jewish affairs adviser and special counsel at the same $110,000 salary. Inexplicably, Cipel maintained a staff of three assistants for a staff job that had no real responsibilities.

There was some thought given by McGreevey to appointing Cipel as the Executive Director of the New Jersey-Israel Commission, an entity created in 1989 to science and technology trade between Israel and New Jersey and which maintains an office in Raanana, Israel. Eventually, Andrea Yonah, an Israeli-U.S. citizen who was raised in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, but studied and worked in Israel for a number of years, was named to head the commission at an undisclosed salary. Yonah had been product marketing director for Princeton eCom, a software company that provides billing software for various Fortune 500 companies, including telecommunications firms like AT&T. During a 2000-2001 Drug Enforcement Administration investigation of Israeli art students who were working illegally in the United States and who were suspected of being espionage agents, links were discovered between them and Israeli companies that also provided billing and other services for telecommunications companies, including AMDOCS — which had a relationship with Nextel — and Comverse Infosys.

In August 2002, Cipel helped arrange for a trip by McGreevey to Israel. On August 4, the Asbury Park Press’s investigative reporter, Sandy McClure, ran a damaging expose of Cipel’s secretive position in the McGreevey administration. The August 11, 2002 edition of the Asbury Park Press reported that after McClure’s piece ran, Cipel became “uncloseted.” McGreevey’s trip to Israel was hurriedly canceled after the Cipel expose ran in the Asbury Park paper. McGreevey’s office stated that the trip was canceled after the State Department informed Trenton that they had concerns over unspecified “hostilities” in the Middle East. But McClure’s story on McGreevey had also appeared in Hebrew in Israel the day before the governor’s trip was canceled. It was apparent that someone wanted to tamp down any speculation about McGreevey’s ties with Cipel and scuttle a potentially politically embarrassing trip to Israel.

Cipel soon resigned from the New Jersey state government and took a job with MWW Group, a public relations firm close to McGreevey, as the head of its New York-based Israeli division. After a month at MWW, Cipel left to join the Trenton lobbying firm, State Street Partners. After only a few months there, Cipel went back to work for Kushner. After Kushner’s federal indictment, rumors surrounding McGreevey’s connection to the tainted businessman began to swirl around the state capital. After the McGreevey scandal broke, the neo-conservative World Net Daily, in an August 13 report, merely referred to Cipel as “Middle Eastern born,” without any reference to his being an Israeli national. Yael Kohen, writing in the neo-conservative New York Sun, merely referred to Cipel as an “Israeli poet.” An editorial in the same August 13 edition of the Sun condemning McGreevey did not once mention that Cipel was an Israeli. After McGreevey’s resignation announcement, Cipel did not answer the door at his West Manhattan apartment and there were reports that Cipel was preparing to sue McGreevey for sexual harassment. An aide to McGreevey said Cipel threatened the legal action unless McGreevey paid the Israeli millions of dollars–an act the aide called “extortion.”

There may be good reasons why the neo-conservatives want to play down Cipel’s Israeli roots–McGreevey may have been set up in an attempt to ruin him and influence the upcoming U.S. presidential election. When foreign nations are found to be influencing American politics, there is an almost uniform tendency for the American people to react negatively to such meddling. One must merely recall the wailing and crying raised over alleged Chinese political contributions to Democrats and Republicans during the Clinton administration.

New Jersey was considered a swing state by the Bush campaign early in the campaign cycle. As John Kerry leaped to a double-digit lead over Bush in the Garden State, the rumors surrounding McGreevey and Kushner were unleashed. Now, with the Governor announcing his resignation amid a gay sex scandal, one is instinctively forced into suspecting the involvement of chief Bush dirty tricks operator Karl Rove in the affair. Rove is attracted to such sordid affairs as a fly is attracted to a pile of horse manure.

Republicans in New Jersey are not happy that McGreevey is not resigning until November 15, which means a special election will for New Jersey’s governor will not be held on November 2, the same date of the presidential election. It certainly would have been a Rovian tactic to make McGreevey’s sexual orientation a campaign issue in order to get out the conservative vote on Election Day in a gambit to increase the right-wing fundamentalist voter turnout for George Bush and appeal to anti-gay conservative Democrats in the state while also hoping to get a Republican into the governor’s seat in Trenton. No sooner had McGreevey announced his resignation, right-wing talk show hosts were demanding he resign immediately and allow the anti-choice Republican former mayor of Jersey City, Brent Schundler, to run for governor on November 2. McGreevey handily defeated Schundler in 2001 with 15 percent of the vote. Schundler had already filed the paperwork to take on Schundler in 2005. The New Jersey situation is reminiscent of California, where Gray Davis won re-election with 6 percentage points over conservative Republican Bill Simon in 2002 only to be defeated in a recall election in less than a year by Republican body builder and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Republicans do not seem satisfied with the normal electoral process but seek ways to upend it.

While McGreevey deserves condemnation for allowing his relationship with a foreign national gay partner to influence his decisions and cloud his judgment on important matters dealing with the security of New Jersey during a time of increasing terror threats, he should also be praised for not succumbing to Republican pressure to resign immediately and permit the Karl Rove dirty trick machine to use this tragedy for the McGreevey family to influence in what column New Jersey’s 15 electoral votes land in November.

WAYNE MADSEN is the author of the forthcoming book: Jaded Tasks: Big Oil, Black Ops, and Brass Plates. He was with the National Security Agency during the Reagan administration and is a native of New Jersey. He can be reached at: WMadsen777@aol.com

 

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