The U.S.-Israeli don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy on murder

One man uses a bomb to kill another and he’s a terrorist. Another does the same and it’s a form of kinetic activity. I guess that makes the latter a kineticist. However, this kinetic activity is something that Americans are not allowed to engage in — because it’s illegal. It’s illegal because in the view of American law it’s not called kinetic activity; it’s called murder.

Newsweek reports: [W]hile the U.S. relationship with Israel is generally strong on security and intelligence matters, there is disagreement on both methods and strategy. Israel has no qualms about assassinating Iranians involved in nuclear research, for instance; U.S. law forbids it. (Drone strikes against jihadist leaders are considered acts of war.) “The Israelis handled everything that was kinetic, and we did the nonkinetic activities, sometimes along with the Israelis,” says a Pentagon source who was involved. A senior U.S. intelligence official says that both sides performed a kind of “Kabuki dance” on the assassinations and industrial “accidents” that have increased in Iran during the past year: “The Israelis don’t want to say and we don’t want to know.”

The United States, moreover, has conducted regular reviews of cooperation with Israel to make sure that American intelligence does not leak into operations that violate U.S. law. “We were always careful about what we said to the Israelis in meetings, and they knew why,” says the Pentagon source. “They knew that if we gave them certain kinds of information we’d run the risk of breaking the law. We often held things back from them—satellite imagery and other kinds of intelligence that could have helped them with their activities.”

From the get-go, Obama had a frosty relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. “There’s no question that tension grew between the two, because we felt like … they had a different estimation [of the timeline for Iran to get nuclear-weapons capability],” says the Pentagon source, “and we felt like some of their [kinetic] activities undermined what we were trying to do. Obama’s view was, why would you remove the opportunity for a diplomatic solution for something that was so incrementally significant [as killing a scientist]?”

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