By Jeff Stein
5/16/14
Newsweek

hagel-peres

Israel had a few triumphs, this week, in its campaign to rebut charges that it spies in the U.S. It got a hearing with the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, it saw the removal of a roadblock to long-delayed legislation that would strengthen strategic cooperation between Israel and the U.S., and at a press conference in Tel Aviv, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said he was “not aware of any facts that would substantiate” Newsweek’s reports on Israeli spying against the United States.

But as always the case in the complex relationship between the two, closely allied nations, Israel did not get everything it wanted. Senator Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Intelligence Committee, stopped short of dismissing allegations of Israeli espionage, a charge buttressed by the publication Wednesday of yet another highly classified National Security Agency document from the vast archive stolen by fugitive whistle-blower Edward Snowden that says Israel has been spying on the United States. And while a Senate bill to lower Israeli visa restrictions was toughened to satisfy critics, some U.S. national security officials still oppose loosening restrictions on Israeli citizens who want to visit the U.S. Some of the concerns not yet addressed: regular reporting by Israel of stolen or lost passports, a faster conversion to biometric passports, and less Israeli hassling of Arab- and Muslim-Americans landing at Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion airport.

The latest NSA document, revealed by journalist Glenn Greenwald in concert with the publication of his memoir, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the U.S. Surveillance State, sums up the complicated security relationship between Israel and Washington in a single paragraph.

“The Israelis are extraordinarily good [Signals Intelligence] partners for us,” the NSA observed, referencing joint electronic spying programs against foreign targets, “but on the other [hand], they target us to learn our positions on Middle East problems.” It added that a CIA-led National Intelligence Estimate on cyberthreats in 2013 “ranked Israel the third most aggressive intelligence service against the U.S.,” behind only China and Russia.

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