Purported spy cables leaked to two media outlets Monday detail an attempt by the CIA to establish contact with members of the terrorist group Hamas.
One of the documents, published by The Guardian and Al-Jazeera, is a 2012 South African intelligence report saying that a CIA operative in Jerusalem “seems to be desperate to make inroads into Hamas in Gaza and possibly would like SSA (South Africa’s State Security Agency) to assist them in gaining access.”
The author of the report said that helping the CIA link up with Hamas could help the SSA “establish the collection priorities and requirements” of the CIA.
The cables also showed frustration on the part of the Palestinian Authority intelligence service over South Africa’s engagement with Hamas.
“[Palestinian General Intelligence Service] officials had wished to engage on the outstanding matter of SSA officials engaging Hamas,” read another of the leaked documents. “The attitude displayed is the same as what the Mission experiences on a regular basis when meetings are held with Hamas or travel to Gaza.”
The cable added that South African officials had received “several protests notes indicating their disapproval of SA engaging with Hamas.”
A third South African intelligence document says that US President Barack Obama threatened PA President Mahmoud Abbas over his bid for UN statehood recognition.
The documents, which spanned briefings and analyses by South Africa’s State Security Agency from 2006-2014, also included correspondences with the CIA, MI6, FSB, the Iranian spy agency and agencies of several other Middle Eastern states. The files ranged from confidential to top-secret, according to al-Jazeera.
A selection of the leaked files, published by Al Jazeera in collaboration with the British Guardian newspaper, “offered an unprecedented insight into operational dealings of the shadowy and highly politicized realm of global espionage,” Al Jazeera said in a preview of the publication on its website.
The Qatari news channel said that only a selection of the leaked spy documents would be published, while others “have been saved for future broadcast — ones that needed further contextualization,” and that “hundreds will not be revealed.”
Earlier Monday, the two outlets released a document purporting to show that the Mossad spy agency in October 2012 had a less alarmist view of Iran’s nuclear program than an assessment delivered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations just a few weeks earlier.
The news organizations said the document was an assessment shared with South African intelligence.
An Israeli official said there was “no discrepancy” between Netanyahu’s assessment and the unverified leaks. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter on the record.
The leaks come just days before Netanyahu is scheduled to speak before the US Congress about Iran’s nuclear program.
Iran reached a landmark interim nuclear deal with world powers in November 2013 under which it converted or diluted its stock of 20 percent enriched uranium. It is negotiating a final deal with the US, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany, with the two sides hoping to agree on a preliminary deal in March and a follow-up pact in June.
Netanyahu has differed with the Mossad in the past, most notably over the effectiveness of a potential military strike on Iran to prevent it from getting atomic weapons.
Israel views a nuclear-armed Iran as a threat to its very existence, citing Tehran’s repeated calls for Israel’s destruction, its long-range missile program and its support for violent anti-Israel groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon. Iran insists its nuclear program is for purely peaceful purposes like power generation and medical isotopes.
The purported leak comes amid an uproar over Netanyahu’s upcoming visit to Washington. He accepted a Republican invitation to address Congress about Iran in early March, but the speech has angered the Obama Administration because it was arranged without consulting the White House, a breach of diplomatic protocol.
The planned speech has drawn fire in Israel as well, coming just two weeks before national elections. Netanyahu has rejected the criticism, saying it is his duty to lobby against the nuclear deal.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.