Elham Asaad Buaras
Israel spies on the US at unprecedented levels for an ally, according to a report by Newsweek. Israel’s espionage activities in the US are unsurpassed by any other allies, such as Germany, France, Britain and Japan, counter-intelligence agents told members of the House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs committees.
The American weekly news magazine reported on May 6 the main targets of Israel’s espionage are US industrial and technical secrets.
Newsweek quoted confidential briefings on legislation that would make it easier for Israelis to get visas. The magazine said a congressional staffer familiar with a briefing last January called the testimony “very sobering … alarming … even terrifying”, and quoted another as saying the behaviour was “damaging.”
“No other country close to the United States continues to cross the line on espionage like the Israelis do,” said a former congressional staffer who attended another classified briefing in late 2013.
Israel’s Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, “categorically” denied his country was spying activities on US soil. “We’re talking about lies and falsehood, simply libel which is baseless and unfounded,” Lieberman said, describing the remarks as “malicious.”
“I am sorry that there are apparently anonymous elements in the United States who are simply trying to maliciously spread false accusations,” he said.
Newsweek said that briefing was one of several in recent months given by the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department, the FBI and the National Counterintelligence Directorate.
The former congressional staffer said the intelligence agencies did not give specifics, but cited “industrial espionage-folks coming over here on trade missions or with Israeli companies working in collaboration with American companies, [or] intelligence operatives being run directly by the Government, which I assume meant out of the [Israeli] Embassy.”
“I don’t think anyone was surprised by these revelations,” the former aide was quoted as saying.“But when you step back and hear…that there are no other countries taking advantage of our security relationship the way the Israelis are for espionage purposes, it is quite shocking.”
Lieberman claimed that Israel had “learned its lesson” from the case of Jonathan Pollard, a US naval analyst who was arrested in Washington in 1985 and sentenced to life in jail for spying on the US for Israel.
He also denied allegations in the Newsweek story that the alleged spying was connected to Israel’s so-far futile attempts to join the US visa waiver program.
Currently, the US allows a visa exemption for 38 countries. While Israel has lobbied hard to get its name on the list, aides to lawmakers said the country has not cooperated enough with the Department of Homeland Security to gain approval. Multiple aides said Israel has tried to rely on allies in Congress to push through its waiver request, so far without success.
Responding to the news that “a working group” has been created to move the process forward, several congressional aides dismissed the development – especially if Israel does little to halt its espionage activities.
“The Israelis haven’t done s**t to get themselves into the visa waiver program,” said a former aide who was involved in the issue. He added that it would be beneficial for Israelis to visit the US without visas, but only so far as they’re willing to resolve the concerns of the intelligence community.