The Prime Minister’s Office on Saturday denied the content of an Associated Press article suggesting Israeli agents spy on their American colleagues stationed in Israel and constitute a counterintelligence threat to US interests.
In an unusually brief SMS message to Israeli journalists, the media advisers of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote: “In response to the report about the CIA, the Prime Minister’s Office states that this a false report.”
Earlier on Saturday, the Associated Press had run an in-depth report quoting anonymous US intelligence officials incriminating members of Israeli security services. The article, which was headlined by AP, “US sees Israel, tight Mideast ally, as spy threat,” described certain instances where Central Intelligence Agency officers stationed in Israel found that their secured locked boxes had been “tampered” with. In a different case, a CIA officer’s fridge had been “rearranged.” In these cases, the article asserts, “the US government believes Israel’s security services were responsible.”
According to the Associated Press writers, Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo, the quoted episodes served as “not-so-subtle reminder[s] that, even in a country friendly to the United States, the CIA was itself being watched.”
Although Washington and Jerusalem are close allies, American intelligence officials considered Israel’s alleged spy activity frustrating and a “genuine counterintelligence threat,” the article stated.
Israel was the “number 1 counterintelligence threat” to the CIA’s Near East Division, Goldman and Apuzzo write, based on interviews with current and former US officials. “Counterintelligence is the art of protecting national secrets from spies. This means the CIA believes that US national secrets are safer from other Middle Eastern governments than from Israel,” they wrote.
The article quoted a response from Lior Weintraub, the spokesman of Israel’s ambassador in Washington, Michael Oren: “Israel’s intelligence and security agencies maintain close, broad and continuous cooperation with their US counterparts.
“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.”