An Israeli spokesman in Washington, Lior Weintraub, said his country has close ties with the U.S. A text message Saturday from the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the report “false.”
“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 CIA declined comment.
The tension exists on both sides.
The National Security Agency historically has kept tabs on Israel. The U.S., for instance, 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 NSA, said 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, Md., 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 said. During the Bush administration, the approval had to come from the White House.
Israel is not America’s closest ally, at least 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 United States, 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.” That person worked for Shin Bet.
Jonathan Pollard, who worked for the 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 unacceptable.”
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.”
In the wake of Pollard, the Israelis promised not to operate intelligence agents on U.S. soil.
A former 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 years old when he was arrested, avoided prison and was ordered to pay a $50,000 fine. He told the judge that, “I thought I was helping the state of Israel without harming the United States.”
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.View Entire Story
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