CIA silent on rumors of Panetta’s secret visit to Israel

Several news outlets have pointed to The London Times as the source of the revelation that CIA Director Leon Panetta secretly visited Israel earlier this moth. In reality, the source of the report is not The Times, but Israel National Radio, which aired the news early on Thursday morning. The report was promptly picked up by Agence France Presse (AFP) and issued in French and English later on the same day. According to AFP, US President Barack Obama sent Panetta to Jerusalem in search of high-level assurances from the new Israeli government of President Benjamin Netanyahu, that Israel “would not launch a surprise strike on Iran”. The same report stated that Panetta received assurances from both President Netanyahu and Minister of Defense, Ehud Barak, that “Israel does not intend to surprise the US on Iran”. It is important to note that the Israelis’ assurances pertain solely to their obligation to notify Washington prior to launching a strike on Tehran, and in no way rule out such an attack. Therefore they fall significantly short of US requirements. Moreover, public reports about Panetta’s visit state nothing about what has been described as an advanced, covert “decapitation program” by Israeli intelligence against Iran’s nuclear program. The former includes sabotage, blackmail and assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists. As intelNews has already reported, the Israeli effort is assisted by an extensive CIA operation approved by President George W. Bush in early 2008 and “hand[ed] off to President […] Barack Obama”. Although the controlled leaks by the Israeli government focused solely on the issue of air attacks against Tehran, the extensive covert collaboration between Washington and Jerusalem was very high on the agenda during Panetta’s secret trip. The crucial question –which so far remains unanswered– is why the Israelis chose to publicize Panetta’s visit two weeks later. The Iranians are surely taking notes.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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