WASHINGTON– A family foundation connected to President Joe Biden’s senior director for cyber policy on the White Home National Security Council contributed over half a million dollars in the last few years to the main pro-Israel lobbying group in Washington, according to public records.
The donations, initially reported by David Corn of Mother Jones magazine, do not appear to pose a legal issue, but some existing and former national security officials informed NBC News they risk producing the possible appearance of predisposition in favor of Israel by a leading American official. While Israel is a close American ally, it operates in its own interest and strongly spies on the U.S., including utilizing cyber abilities, existing and former officials state.
Other present and previous officials disagreed, saying they do not believe the donations posture a problem.
The lobbying group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, describes itself as a “bipartisan American organization that advocates for a strong U.S.-Israeli relationship.” Many Republicans and numerous Democrats are closely allied with the group, while other Democrats are not.
The authorities, Anne Neuberger, just recently was named senior director for cyber policy on the National Security Council. She spent the last decade at the National Security Agency, the Pentagon’s digital spying arm, where she worked her way up the ranks to become head of a freshly produced cybersecurity directorate.
Neuberger did not instantly respond to email and telephone messages.
A spokesperson for the National Security Council declined to answer detailed questions about the matter, saying, “As a senior NSC worker, Ms. Neuberger will abide by the Executive Order on Ethics Commitments By Executive Branch Worker.”
It’s unclear Neuberger would have been required to divulge contributions by her household structure as part of her principles or security clearance evaluations– so it’s not known whether the Biden group vetted the contributions. Although the contributions are listed in public tax filings available on the web, some effort is required to find them.
The child of billionaire investor George Karfunkel, Neuberger is an officer of a structure named for her and her husband, the Yehuda and Anne Neuberger Structure.
The foundation was created 12 years ago to “carry out the charitable and spiritual purposes of the Associated Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore,” according to its tax records. Neither Neuberger nor her hubby received any settlement from the nonprofit.
From 2012 through 2018– the last year for which tax records for the structure are readily available– the Neuberger foundation contributed $559,000 to AIPAC, tax record show. In a different part of the kinds, the foundation reports investing that exact quantities of its AIPAC donations under the category of spending for lobbying “to influence a legal body” or “to affect public opinion,” A nonprofit charitable structure is enabled to contribute to a lobbying organization if the amount is a limited percentage of its general providing.
A cross section of existing and former intelligence authorities and diplomacy professionals– none of whom were willing to be called– said the donations created an appearance problem. They noted that Israel, whose companies build and sell spying gear to programs abroad and whose intelligence firms hack foreign federal governments around the world, has a big stake in American cyber policy.
2 of the sources interviewed who understand Neuberger say she is an individual of high stability. However, setting up a top cyber official in the White House who has strong ties to an organization that represents the interests of the Israeli federal government might trigger some people to question the impartiality of the policy process, they stated.
” If you donate half a million dollars to a lobbying group, that shows a pretty strong choice,” stated one senior Congressional aide who oversees national security problems.
” One concern this provides is whether she would recuse herself from decisions that could affect Israel,” said a foreign policy expert with close ties to the Biden team.
The donations “would raise a great deal of eyebrows within the government and beyond, one previous senior intelligence authorities stated, “specifically considering that the 2 measurements included– Israel and cyber– have their own history.”
A second former senior intelligence official added, “Is this disqualifying? Most likely not. But it’s bad.”
One present intelligence authorities and one congressional assistant disagreed, stating the contributions alone are not bothersome due to the fact that AIPAC is a mainstream organization and Israel is an ally.
The Trump administration stressed its close alignment with the Israeli federal government, moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and cutting off relations with Palestinian authorities. The Biden administration has actually revealed its objective to bring back relations with the Palestinians.
While the Neuberger Foundation donations to AIPAC have actually not previously been reported, newspaper article have detailed her other half’s role as chair of AIPAC’s Baltimore executive council. In 2011, Rabbi Steven Weil, the executive vice president of the Orthodox Union, hailed his “impressive credibility as a leader of AIPAC.” 4 years later on, as part of a collective AIPAC effort, Yehuda Neuberger lobbied Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., to oppose the multilateral Iran nuclear deal the Obama White Home had negotiated.
According to The Wall Street Journal, U.S. intelligence agencies figured out that Israel spied on talks amongst the U.S. and its allies over the Iran nuclear deal, in an effort to stop it.
AIPAC has long been dogged by criticism that it runs as a virtual arm of the Israeli government. In 2009, the Justice Department chose to drop espionage charges versus 2 AIPAC officials who had actually been accused of spying for Israel. Authorities pointed out court judgments that they stated made the case unwinnable and fears that the trial would disclose classified information.
A spokesperson for AIPAC did not immediately respond to an ask for remark.