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The Jewish Telegraphic Agency Offers to Spy for the FBI

"..Special representatives should be appointed in each of the countries, not only in the capitals, but in the various provincial centers…In the two largest countries, Argentina and Brazil, a weekly budget of $400 to $500 would be required in order to cover adequately the most important cities as well as the various provincial centers...."


The Jewish Telegraphic Agency traces its roots to the Jewish Correspondence Bureau founded in The Hague in 1917 by Jacob Landau. It sought to disseminate news to Jewish communities worldwide, especially from European theaters of war. By 1925, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency claimed its cable subscription news feed was serving over 400 newspapers. Today, the news organization uses the World Wide Web and claims global leadership on “issues of Jewish interest and concern” and journalistic independence due to funding from fifty Jewish federations in North America and eighteen Jewish foundations. As revealed in the book Big Israel: How Israel's Lobby Moves America, unicorporated divisions inside Jewish Federations are heavily involved in lobbying for pro-Israel initiatives in state and local governments.

Officials inside the U.S. federal government initially viewed the Jewish Telegraphic Agency as either an organized Jewish interest group, or after the founding of Israel, an Israeli foreign agent that used news coverage as a pretext to get inside such sensitive agencies as the U.S. State Department to relay information directly back to Tel Aviv. It has become clearer, with the declassification of critical files, why this was so. (July 31, 2015 FOIA release letter).

Like the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency was interested in a close, if not an insider, relationship with the FBI. Jacob Landau secretly offered the FBI an attractive partnership at a time the bureau was struggling to have a presence in Latin America. In a signed proposal to the FBI dated April 23, 1942, Landau offered to cover Latin America for the FBI as a plausibly deniable intelligence service leveraging Jewish correspondents in key countries for $540 per week.

Landau further proposed to spy on U.S.-based foreign language groups of possible FBI interest such as Ukrainians. The weekly costs quoted were not insignificant, amounting to over $7,500 in 2015 dollars. By 1946, Landau claimed, the precursor to the CIA, the Office of Strategic Services, already “paid $300 per month for the news service” and that “the Office of War Information and other organizations receive the service at varying rates or free of charge.” In early 1950, JTA's Milton Friedman offered to spy on the Soviet Union for the FBI.

FBI File


07312015_1290912-0-062-HQ-67633-062-HQ-67633-Section01.PDF October 5, 1939 JTA request to interview FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, JTA complaint to Hoover that the FBI had excluded it from a briefing on the Christian Front.

Jacob Landau's signed proposal to the FBI dated April 23, 1942, offering to cover Latin America for the FBI as a plausibly deniable intelligence service leveraging Jewish correspondents in key countries for $540 per week.

1944 JTA bulletin on refugee movements and other matters. 1946 Landau claim that OSS paying $300 per month for JTA news. FBI refuses to buy reports, because it can obtain them through confidential informants. Flap over incorrect story about religious designations on arrest records.

1949 memo about JTA. "It is not believed that the Jewish Telegraphic Agency can be considered reputable enough to warrant your contacting them...you will wish to consider the disreputable nature of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in connection with the Director's suggestion...

March 20, 1950 memo documenting Milton Friedman apology in visit to FBI. Offers to spy on the Soviet Union. Offer rebuffed. "I told him that as long as he was a reporter he should be a good reporter and should not permit himself to be used..."

1950 examination of JTA activities and the Foreign Agents Registration Act because of payments from Israel. "The Israeli Government, which is seriously short of dollar credits, is supposed to be underwriting the operations of JTA to the extent of $5,000 per month…"

Notice in 1950 to the FBI that Rudolph Sonneborn, of the weapons smuggling front, the Sonneborn Institute, was taking over JTA.


1944-1951 Memos between the FBI, Attorney General and Justice Department Foreign Agents Registration Act office about whether the JTA should register as a foreign agent.

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