CIA sees Israel as ‘genuine counterintelligence threat’: sources

The Near East Division of the Central Intelligence Agency, America’s primary intelligence organization, views Israel as the most serious threat to its secrets, according to an exposé published yesterday by the Associated Press. Citing interviews with at least five current and former US intelligence officials, the news agency said the CIA views the Israeli spy community as “a genuine counterintelligence threat” to US interests. The intelligence officials, who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said the CIA believes US national secrets are less safe in the hands of Israel than in those of other governments in the region, such as Turkey, Jordan, or Lebanon. The Associated Press exposé will not surprise regular readers of intelNews, as this blog has regularly covered various aspects of the complex US-Israeli intelligence relationship. Indeed, seasoned readers of this blog may recall that a 2010 survey among officers in the CIA’s National Clandestine Service showed that they considered Israeli intelligence agencies to be the world’s least friendly and most uncooperative with their US counterparts. The survey also showed that officers in the NCS (the CIA division that includes actual operatives on the ground), also considered Israeli spy services as the world’s third most aggressive in their operations on American soil. This new report by the Associated Press seems to confirm the NCS survey results, while adding a partial explanation as to why the intelligence services of one of America’s closest geopolitical allies would be considered a threat by the CIA. It is widely thought that Israel’s intelligence agencies can often match —and sometimes surpass— their American counterparts in terms of their analytical and operational capabilities. These skills, coupled with Israel’s unique access to the inner sanctums of the American national security establishment, place the Jewish state in an unparalleled position to acquire and compromise US government secrets. The Associated Press report details several incidents of intrusions of homes belonging to CIA personnel operating in Israel in recent years, including the case of an unnamed Agency officer who “came home to find the food in the refrigerator had been rearranged”. The article mentions a far more serious case of a Syrian scientist and CIA spy, who was the Agency’s sole mole inside the Syrian weapons of mass destruction program during the years of the George W. Bush administration. The scientist disappeared after the Israeli government seemingly leaked information to the media about a CIA mole operating inside the Syrian WMD program, in an effort to pressure Damascus to abandon it. Lior Weintraub, Chief of Staff at the Israeli embassy in Washington, DC, called the Associated Press article “baseless and contrary to the spirit and practice of the security cooperation between our two countries”. The CIA declined comment.

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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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