I was the target of a private Israeli intelligence firm, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt

In September 2017, I got a “cease and desist” email from an organization called outlawbds. They informed me that because of my activism around BDS, I had been put on a “blacklist”—yes, they used that word, twice—and that I had a limited window of time to change my tune on BDS in order to get my name removed from the blacklist and avoid the legal consequences of my advocacy. “You have been marked,” the email warned me. “You have been identified.”

Turns out the whole thing was part of an operation of an Israeli intelligence firm called “Psy-Group.” Whose activities have now been exposed in The New Yorker.

Here are just a snippet of the items that might be of interest to those of us on CUNY campuses and in the New York area.

The campaign, code-named Project Butterfly, initially targeted B.D.S. activists on college campuses in “a single U.S. state,” which former Psy-Group employees have told me was New York. The company said that its operatives drew up lists of individuals and organizations to target. The operatives then gathered derogatory information on them from social media and the “deep” Web, areas of the Internet that are not indexed by search engines such as Google. In some cases, Psy-Group operatives conducted on-the-ground covert human-intelligence, or HUMINT, operations against their targets. Israeli intelligence officials insist that they do not spy on Americans, a claim that is disputed by their U.S. counterparts. Israeli officials said, however, that this prohibition does not apply to private companies such as Psy-Group, which use discharged Israel Defense Forces soldiers and former members of elite intelligence units, rather than active-duty members, in operations targeting Americans.

You can read more here.

And here’s the email I got.



  1. Donald Pruden, Jr., a/k/a The Enemy Combatant February 28, 2019 at 1:01 pm | #


    Any ideas for a response? Anything we can do?

  2. person in europe February 28, 2019 at 1:57 pm | #

    Did the underlying URL for the website link near the end of the email include some unique string to enable the firm to identify who among email recipients clicked it and register the IP adress of the recipients computer at the time of clicking it? Would not be surprised if it did.

  3. phatkhat February 28, 2019 at 2:03 pm | #

    Wow. Just. Wow. Read the chilling article at the New Yorker, and I’m sure I am on the “blacklist” as a member of the “leftist Jewish” organization, as well. (I’m not Jewish, but I am a member of JVP) I’ve read that if you are a member, you will be denied a visa to visit Israel.

    I visited Israel in 1979. I saw the “refugee camps” which looked like concentration camps to me. IDF members boarded the bus and forbade us from photographing the camps – or anything else they didn’t want us to document. I managed to get a couple of pics which I shared as best you could in 1979.

    My reaction then was, “How can a people who suffered so much so recently turn around and do the same thing to another people?” That is still my question today, 40 years later. I have, for those 40 years, refused to buy anything labeled as made in Israel. So my BDS involvement goes back a long way.

    I am appalled that Israeli intelligence is given free reign to harass US citizens in their own country. I am appalled that they have so much influence over our lawmakers. They are a small country, with an outsized influence, much like the outsized influence of the minority of fundamentalist Christians who support them in the US.

    I’m appalled at the email you received, and glad that I am unlikely to get one as a non-high-profile citizen. But, then, one never knows…

    • uh...clem February 28, 2019 at 3:55 pm | #

      I wouldn’t be surprised if Corey and you have already garnered dossiers via the FBI. Its file on me (starting in 1967) only had references to my activities at KU in working with the campus chapter of SDS. Surprisingly there was no reference to any of my anti-war activism which had begun as early as 1963 – the year I started my Ph.D. program there. I have also filed a FOIA request for my file(s) with the CIA due to its Operation CHAOS of 1967-1974. No reply yet, despite my request of over a year ago. Surveillance of the american public’s dissent against US foreign and domestic policies has only increased exponentially since those olden times.

  4. uh...clem February 28, 2019 at 5:00 pm | #

    I wonder what was on that “lousy t-shirt”. maybe it’s worth duplicating.

  5. Sam's Dad February 28, 2019 at 5:49 pm | #

    And I hear that Richard Nixon considers you an enemy, too.

    Sometimes being hated by the wrong people is the best one can hope for. Best regards.

  6. Edward March 7, 2019 at 1:12 pm | #

    Maybe you should make a t-shirt with a copy of the letter on it.

  7. Gene March 11, 2019 at 7:51 am | #

    I read the New Yorker article and it did cause my hair to stand on end. But hidden in plain sight within the article is an insidious passage about Russia, with the implication that “it’s only understandable that US firms and government entities need to use tactics like this since we’re under constant attack from Russian spooks who wrote the book about such tactics.” The presence of that passage in the article, to me, can only be explained as an example of the extent to which “straight” journalism has been polluted by the anti-Russia hysteria that publications like the New Yorker, the NYT, etc. etc. ad nauseam are themselves creating and maintaining.

Leave a Reply