A newly revealed NSA document highlights and corroborates allegations carried by Newsweek that Israel aggressively spies on the US, the magazine reported Saturday.
The document, among those unleashed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and revealed by journalist Glenn Greenwald in his new memoir, carries the assessment that Israel is a good partner to the US for joint electronic spying programs against foreign agents but practices problematic operations.
“The Israelis are extraordinarily good [Signals Intelligence] partners for us,” the NSA document says, as reported in Newsweek, “but on the other [hand], they target us to learn our positions on Middle East problems.”
The document also said that a 2013 National Intelligence Estimate on cyber threats “ranked Israel the third most aggressive intelligence service against the US” behind only China and Russia, Newsweek reported.
Quoting an unnamed senior US intelligence operative, following vociferous denials by Israeli figures, Newsweek said “Israeli intelligence, became far more cautious, subtle and sophisticated after the 1985 arrest of Jonathan Pollard on charges of spying for Israel.”
“Israel does spy on the US, but in a wide variety of ways that can’t just be reduced to handling a clandestine agent like Jonathan Pollard,” the magazine quoted the source as saying. “There are many players [at work], military and civilian, [in the] defense industrial base and [among] industrial competitors, technologies and commercial systems.” They are not necessarily direct employees of Israeli intelligence agencies, “but all work for the mothership,” he told Newsweek.
Newsweek published two reports last week, one alleging that the extent of Israeli espionage operations in the US was “sobering” and “shocking,” and a follow-up article alleging that Israel’s aggressive spying activities are routinely covered up because of Jerusalem’s powerful connections in Congress.
On Thursday, US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, in Tel Aviv as part of a regional tour, appeared to dismiss the series of high-profile media reports regarding Israeli espionage in the United States.
“I have heard of that report,” Hagel said of the two-part Newsweek article. “I’m not aware of the facts that would substantiate the report,” he added, according to Reuters.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, for his part, joined an array of former and current Israeli officials in dismissing the reports as baseless. “As former head of Military Intelligence, I wasn’t allowed to spy in the United States whatsoever. And as defense minister, I don’t allow to spy in the United States whatsoever,” he said.
Maj. Gen. (res) Amos Yadlin, former Military Intelligence head and current director of the INSS think tank, called the Newsweek reports “malicious hearsay” on Channel 2 on Friday and added that “every prime minister [of Israel] since the Pollard incident has very clearly instructed his intelligence establishment: Israel does not spy on the US.”
He called on US intelligence officials, former and current, to come out strongly against the allegations and to tell the American people about the benefits of Israeli-American security cooperation.
The issue of spying has come to the forefront in recent months as the possible release of Pollard, a jailed American-Israeli spy, was brought up in connection with Israel-Palestinian peace talks.
Pollard, a US-born navy intelligence analyst, is serving a life sentence in a North Carolina prison for spying for Israel. He was captured in 1985.
The issue of Israel’s spying also became an issue in its bid to join the US visa waiver program. Reports have indicated that Israel’s covert activities were holding it back from achieving its goal of joining the program, which would allow Israeli citizens to travel to the US with much greater ease.