April 22, 2008 -- The arrest of a New Jersey engineer on charges of conspiracy to pass U.S. military secrets to Israel Tuesday shows a consistent, continued pattern of Israeli spying on its major benefactor, the United States, according to espionage experts.
"The Israelis have always been active intelligence collectors in the U.S. It's just a matter of time in terms of when we have sufficient evidence to bring one of the cases," said John Martin, retired senior U.S. Department of Justice executive who oversaw the investigation and prosecution of espionage cases in the U.S. for more than 30 years, including that of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard. Pollard is currently serving his 23rd year of a life sentence in federal prison in North Carolina for passing highly classified information to Israel.
"[The Israelis] got caught again, and they'll get caught again after this," said Martin, referring to Tuesday's indictment by the U.S. government of Ben-Ami Kadish, a former U.S. military engineer who allegedly helped give restricted nuclear weapons data, classified jet fighter weapons system data and key information on the Patriot missile system to Israel between 1979 and 1985.
Martin speculated Kadish would have been able to provide information about technology that the Israeli military was involved with every day. "They get so much stuff from the U.S., and it seemed they just wanted more," he said, referring to the weapons and aircrafts the U.S. gives to the Israeli military. "Any intelligence service will go after more than what they are getting from their allies. That is the nature of this intelligence collection beast," he said.
Russia and China are the largest collectors of intelligence in the U.S., but Israel is and always has been a major collector, according to Martin.
U.S. officials briefed on Kadish's case said that Kadish's alleged handler was Yosef Yagur, the same scientific attaché at the Israeli consulate in New York who handled Pollard.
Though Yagur fled the U.S. for Israel after Pollard was arrested in 1985, Kadish's court documents say Yagur and Kadish maintained contact until as recently as last month. The complaint said Yagur told Kadish by phone to lie to federal investigators when asked about the alleged espionage that took place more than 20 years ago.
Martin said Pollard and Kadish likely did not know one another. "As a matter of trade-craft, the Israeli intelligence service would not want one operative to know the other unless it was absolutely necessary, and it does not appear to have been necessary. Pollard was in the Navy stealing highly classified communication information while Kadish was getting information on the latest developments in aircraft technology," said Martin.
Pollard's wife Esther who married Pollard after he was sent to prison told ABC News that her husband was in no way connected to Kadish. "Any attempt to connect these allegations to my husband adds insult to injury. He has served more that five times the usual time for espionage," she said. Pollard's first wife, Anne, served three and a half years of a five-year sentence on a charge related to Pollard's.
Kadish was charged with conspiracy to violate the espionage act, which is a capital offense. The U.S. does not usually seek the death penalty for such a charge, according to Martin.
Kadish's lawyer, Bruce Goldstein, said Kadish has entered a plea of not guilty. He would not comment further on the case.
The Israeli Embassy did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment on this article.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Arye Mekel said he knew nothing about the case against Kadish. "We heard about it from the media," he said, but would not comment further.