Israel denies it routinely spies on American intelligence agents (ISRAEL HAYOM) The Associated Press and Israel Hayom Staff 07/29/12)
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AP report, based on interviews with senior U.S. intelligence
officials, says that CIA considers Israel the top counterintelligence
threat in the region • Mossad and Shin Bet have been suspected of
recruiting U.S. officials and trying to steal American secrets.
The Prime Minister´s Office has flatly denied a report by The
Associated Press that Israel routinely spies on CIA agents stationed
in Israel and constitutes a counterintelligence threat to its closest
“In response to the report about the CIA, the Prime Minister’s Office
states that this a false report,” the office stated on Saturday
night. The CIA has declined to comment on the matter.
The AP report states that the CIA station chief in Tel Aviv opened a
locked box containing sensitive equipment he used from his home to
communicate with CIA headquarters in Virginia, only to find that
someone had tampered with it. He then sent word to his superiors
about the break-in.
The same thing happened to his predecessor, according to AP, which
called the incidents "a not-so-subtle reminder that, even in a
country friendly to the United States, the CIA was itself being
The report is based on interviews with former senior U.S.
intelligence officials, who are not named. In a separate episode, a
CIA officer in Israel reportedl came home to find the food in the
refrigerator had been rearranged. In all the cases, the U.S.
government believes Israel´s security services were responsible, AP
"Such meddling underscores what is widely known but rarely discussed
outside intelligence circles: Despite inarguable ties between the
U.S. and its closest ally in the Middle East, and despite statements
from U.S. politicians trumpeting the friendship, U.S. national
security officials consider Israel to be, at times, a frustrating
ally and a genuine counterintelligence threat," the report says.
Israel is considered the CIA´s number one counterintelligence threat
in the agency´s Near East Division, the group that oversees spying
across the Middle East, current and former officials told AP.
Counterintelligence is the art of protecting national secrets from
spies. This means the CIA believes that U.S. national secrets are
safer from other Middle Eastern governments than from Israel.
In addition to what the former U.S. officials described as intrusions
in homes in the past decade, Israel has been implicated in U.S.
criminal espionage cases and disciplinary proceedings against CIA
officers and blamed in the presumed death of an important spy in
Syria for the CIA during the administration of President George W.
Israel employs highly sophisticated, professional spy services that
rival American agencies in technical capability and recruiting human
sources. Unlike Iran or Syria, Israel as a steadfast U.S. ally enjoys
access to the highest levels of the U.S. government in military and
The officials spoke to AP on condition of anonymity because they were
not authorized to talk publicly about the sensitive intelligence and
diplomatic issues between the two countries.
The counterintelligence worries continue even as the U.S.
relationship with Israel features close cooperation on intelligence
programs that reportedly included the Stuxnet computer virus that
attacked computers in Iran´s main nuclear enrichment facilities.
While the alliance is central to the U.S. approach in the Middle
East, there is room for intense disagreement, especially in the
diplomatic turmoil over Iran´s nuclear ambitions.
"It´s a complicated relationship," Joseph Wippl, a former senior CIA
clandestine officer and head of the agency´s office of congressional
affairs, told AP. "They have their interests. We have our interests.
For the U.S., it´s a balancing act."
An Israeli spokesman in Washington, Lior Weintraub, told AP that
Israel has close ties with the U.S. "Israel´s intelligence and
security agencies maintain close, broad and continuous cooperation
with their U.S. counterparts," Weintraub said. "They are our partners
in confronting many mutual challenges. Any suggestion otherwise is
baseless and contrary to the spirit and practice of the security
cooperation between our two countries."
The tension exists on both sides, according to AP´s report.
The National Security Agency historically has kept tabs on Israel.
The U.S. does not want to be caught off guard if Israel launches a
surprise attack that could plunge the region into war and jeopardize
oil supplies, putting American soldiers at risk.
Matthew Aid, the author of "The Secret Sentry," about the National
Security Agency, told AP the U.S. started spying on Israel even
before the state was created in 1948. Aid said the U.S. had a station
on Cyprus dedicated to spying on Israel until 1974. Today, teams of
Hebrew linguists are stationed at Fort Meade, Maryland, at the NSA,
listening to intercepts of Israeli communications, he said.
CIA policy generally forbids its officers in Tel Aviv from recruiting
Israeli government sources, officials said. To do so would require
approval from senior CIA leaders, two former senior officials told
AP. During the Bush administration, the approval had to come from the
Israel is not America´s closest ally when it comes to whom Washington
trusts with the most sensitive national security information. That
distinction belongs to a group of nations known informally as
the "Five Eyes." Under that umbrella, the U.S., Britain, Australia,
Canada and New Zealand agree to share intelligence and not to spy on
one another. Often, U.S. intelligence officers work directly
alongside counterparts from these countries to handle highly
classified information not shared with anyone else.
Israel is part of a second-tier relationship known by another
informal name, "Friends on Friends." It comes from the
phrase "Friends don´t spy on friends," and the arrangement dates back
decades. But Israel´s foreign intelligence service, the Mossad, and
its FBI equivalent, the Shin Bet, both considered among the best in
the world, have been suspected of recruiting U.S. officials and
trying to steal American secrets.
Around 2004 or 2005, the CIA fired two female officers for having
unreported contact with Israelis. One of the women acknowledged
during a polygraph exam that she had been in a relationship with an
Israeli who worked in the Foreign Ministry, a former U.S. official
said. The CIA learned the Israeli introduced the woman to
his "uncle," who worked for the Shin Bet.
Jonathan Pollard, who worked for the U.S. Navy as a civilian
intelligence analyst, was convicted of spying for Israel in 1987 when
the Friends on Friends agreement was in effect. He was sentenced to
life in prison. The Israelis for years have tried to win his release.
In January 2011, Netanyahu asked Obama to free Pollard and
acknowledged that Israel´s actions in the case were "wrong and wholly
Ronald Olive, a former senior supervisor with the Naval Criminal
Investigative Service who investigated Pollard, said that after the
arrest, the U.S. formed a task force to determine what government
records Pollard had taken. Olive said Israel turned over so few that
it represented "a speck in the sand," AP reported.
In the wake of Pollard, the Israelis promised not to operate
intelligence agents on U.S. soil.
A former U.S. Army mechanical engineer, Ben-Ami Kadish, pleaded
guilty in 2008 to passing classified secrets to the Israelis during
the 1980s. His case officer was the same one who handled Pollard.
Kadish let the Israelis photograph documents about nuclear weapons, a
modified version of an F-15 fighter jet and the U.S. Patriot missile
air defense system. Kadish, who was 85 when he was arrested, avoided
prison and was ordered to pay a $50,000 fine. He told the judge: "I
thought I was helping the state of Israel without harming the United
In 2006, a former Defense Department analyst was sentenced to more
than 12 years in prison for giving classified information to an
Israeli diplomat and two pro-Israel lobbyists.
Despite the Pollard case and others, Olive said he believed the two
countries needed to maintain close ties. "But do we still have to be
vigilant? Absolutely. The Israelis are good at what they do," he said.
During the Bush administration, the CIA ranked some of the world´s
intelligence agencies in order of their willingness to help in the
U.S.-led fight against terrorism. One former U.S. intelligence
official who saw the completed list said Israel, which had not been
directly targeted in attacks by al-Qaida, fell below Libya, which had
recently agreed to abandon its nuclear weapons program.
The AP report says that some CIA officials still "bristle" over the
disappearance of a Syrian scientist who during the Bush
administration was the CIA´s only spy inside Syria´s military program
to develop chemical and biological weapons. The scientist was
providing the agency with extraordinary information about pathogens
used in the program, former U.S. officials said about the previously
unknown intelligence operation.
At the time, there was pressure to share information about weapons of
mass destruction, and the CIA provided its intelligence to Israel. A
former official with direct knowledge of the case said details about
Syria´s program were published in the media. Although the CIA never
formally concluded that Israel was responsible, CIA officials
complained to Israel about their belief that the Israelis were
leaking the information to pressure Syria to abandon the program. The
Syrians pieced together who had access to the sensitive information
and eventually identified the scientist as a traitor.
Before he disappeared and presumably was killed, the scientist told
his CIA handler that Syrian Military Intelligence was focusing on
him, AP reported.
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