Subsequently, I received a call from Spencer Oliver, chief counsel of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, telling me that the committee had informed the Bush administration that interference in a congressional inquiry -- by denying Ben-Menashe entrance in Los Angeles -- would not be tolerated. The path to Washington appeared clear.
I passed the information on to Ben-Menashe, who rescheduled his flight for the weekend of May 18-19, 1991.
When he reached Los Angeles, Ben-Menashe was pulled aside by immigration officers and was subjected to aggressive questioning, but he was not delivered to the Israelis. He was allowed to continue on to Washington, where I picked him up at Dulles Airport.
In my previous dealings with Ben-Menashe, he had always seemed cocky, even under the pressure of his imprisonment. However, when he reached Dulles, he was shaken. Besides facing the risk of the "Vanunu treatment," he complained of violent threats against him emanating from Israel.
I drove Ben-Menashe to my home in Arlington, Virginia, where we talked for a while. But he remained nervous and agitated, expressing fear about what might happen if I dropped him off at a Washington hotel. He asked if he could stay overnight in my guest room. Seeing the fear in his eyes, I agreed.
"The only safety measure I could have thought of was to stay in your house," Ben-Menashe told me years later. "I couldn't believe that anyone would have harmed an average American family because all hell would have broken loose."
He also said he has since confirmed from an old friend in Israeli intelligence that there was a plan for U.S. authorities to declare him persona non grata when he reached Los Angeles and then divert him to Tel Aviv, since he was still traveling on an Israeli passport.
When that plan was thwarted by the tip that I received, Ben-Menashe said he was told that a fall-back plan was simply to kill him under mysterious circumstances and that we had been under Israeli surveillance after leaving Dulles Airport.
Ben-Menashe was finally debriefed by House committee counsel Oliver. In the interview, Ben-Menashe still appeared shaken. Ben-Menashe hesitantly recounted his story of the October Surprise meetings and other aspects of his intelligence work for Israel. [A copy of Ben-Menashe's debriefing is available as a premium gift for donors to Consortiumnews.com. Click here for details.]
Oliver told me that he had checked out one of Ben-Menashe's seemingly implausible claims -- that he had spent time in Ayacucho, Peru -- and was amazed to locate a witness who recounted dealing with the mysterious Israeli in that remote Peruvian city.
While it's impossible to know for sure what might have happened to Ben-Menashe if I had not let him stay in my guest room, there apparently was something to his suspicion that we were being followed.
Several months later, amid an intense campaign in fall 1991 to discredit the October Surprise investigation and demonize everyone associated with it, Steven Emerson, a writer with close ties to the Likud and Israeli intelligence, began circulating the story of Ben-Menashe staying at my house as if it were some ethical violation on my part.
An ABC News' correspondent even called me, questioning my supposed offense. I challenged him to cite any journalistic code that forbids a reporter from letting a frightened source stay in a guest room.
But the question that stuck in my mind from that experience was how would Emerson or anyone else know this insignificant fact -- unless Ben-Menashe and I had been under surveillance after leaving Dulles.
Though Ben-Menashe may have avoided the fate of Vanunu or possibly something worse, he could not escape the character assassination from that fall's counterattack launched by media allies of Israel, the Republican Party and other powerful interests.
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