Leaked documents reveal US sees Israel as a major spying threat

 by Julian Pecquet


The Obama administration views Israel as one of the top spying threats facing  its intelligence services, leaked documents reveal.

A secret budget request obtained  by The Washington Post from former NSA contractor Edward  Snowden lumps Israel alongside U.S. foes Iran and Cuba as “key targets” for U.S.  counterintelligence efforts. The document suggests Israel does not believe U.S.  assurances that its interests are aligned with Israel’s on crucial issues such  as Iran and peace talks with the Palestinians.

“To further safeguard our classified  networks, we continue to strengthen insider threat detection capabilities across  the Community,” reads the FY 2013 congressional budget justification for  intelligence programs. “In addition, we are investing in target surveillance and  offensive CI [counterintelligence] against key targets, such as China, Russia,  Iran, Israel, Pakistan and Cuba.”

The White House and the Israeli Embassy did not respond to requests for  comment.

The revelations come as no surprise to Georgetown University’s Paul Pillar,  who retired as the national intelligence officer for the Near East in 1995 after  a 28-year career in U.S. intelligence. Israeli spying, he said, has remained a  major threat since U.S. citizen Jonathan Pollard received a life sentence in  1987 in a massive spying case that gravely strained relations between the two  countries.

“Israel should be assumed to continue to have an aggressive intelligence  collection operations against the United States,” Pillar said. While much  information is collected through traditional political contacts, “I would  personally have no doubt that that is supplemented by whatever means they can  use to find out as much as they can about what we’re doing, thinking, deciding  on anything of interest to Israel, which would include just about any Middle  Eastern topic.”

The issues of continued Israeli settlement construction and Obama’s strong  interest in reaching a negotiated settlement to avoid a confrontation with Iran  over its nuclear program, Pillar said, are two issues where U.S. and Israeli  interests “certainly diverge,” he said. Spying, he said, could give Israel  “warning indicators” before any public decisions, and enable the country to put  its “political machine in action” and get the United States to reconsider.

“If I were in [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s shoes and had his  perspective,” Pillar said, “I would spare no effort to try to collect every bit  of intelligence I could, in secret as well as openly.”

He said the public revelations won’t impact U.S.-Israeli relations.

“Everything is trumped by political realities,” Pillar said. “Don’t expect  any statement by the White House press secretary tomorrow that says, ‘Oh my  gosh, we are really upset with the Israelis for trying to spy on us’. You’re  never going to hear anything like that, because politically it is hazardous for  basically any American politician – and certainly an incumbent American  administration – to underscore … the divergence of U.S. and Israeli  interests.”




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