The Israeli government’s assertion that Israel does not spy on the United States is contradicted by secret National Security Agency (NSA) documents, The Intercept reported on Thursday. Israel had refuted a report published in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week, which claimed that Israel was spying on ongoing talks for a nuclear deal with Iran. The information was then allegedly shared with U.S. lawmakers and other parties in order to undermine support for the deal domestically.
“We got our intelligence from other sources, not from the United States. The instruction has been clear for decades now: you don’t spy on the United States, directly or indirectly,” Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman had said, according to the Times of Israel. According to The Intercept, however, the recently leaked documents show that the NSA considers Israel’s intelligence service a “key threat” and a “hostile” player.
The NSA considered Russia and China as conducting the most aggressive espionage against the U.S., but, “A NIE [National Intelligence Estimate] ranked [Israel] as the third most aggressive intelligence service against the U.S,” the report added, citing a document. The same document shows that the CIA considers Israel a “priority threat country,” a label also used to describe Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan and Cuba.
U.S. intelligence services were especially concerned by the methods used by Israeli agencies to “influence anti-regime elements in Iran,” the Intercept report added. The State Department has reportedly also stopped giving Israel intelligence updates on how the talks are proceeding.
The White House and President Barack Obama had declined to comment on the spying revelations Tuesday. However, Obama's administration has indicated that it will now reevaluate the U.S.-Israel relationship, while Obama said that the possibility of a peace deal between Israel and Palestine now seemed “very dim.”
White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough recently told reporters that the ongoing “occupation” of Palestinian territories could not continue. “An occupation that has lasted for almost 50 years must end, and the Palestinian people must have the right to live in and govern themselves in their own sovereign state,” he said.
Israeli spies are also alleged to have spied on U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s phone calls with Middle East leaders during a round of peace talks to broker a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Israel's intelligence services are also alleged to have targeted U.S. trade and defense secrets, according to Newsweek.
“No other country close to the United States continues to cross the line on espionage like the Israelis do,” an anonymous former congressional staffer told the magazine, adding that the alleged operations were much larger in scope than any of those conducted by other allied nations, such as Germany, France, Japan or the U.K.