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US magazine: Israel's spying on US has 'crossed red lines'

According to classified briefings in Congress, Israeli efforts to steal US secrets under the cover of trade missions and joint defence technology contracts have "crossed red lines," Newsweek magazine reported on Tuesday.

The US magazine cited testimony given to members of the House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs committees, which said that Israel's espionage activities in America are "unrivalled and unseemly", going far beyond activities by other close allies, such as Germany, France, the UK and Japan.

Newsweek reported that, "A congressional staffer familiar with a briefing last January called the testimony 'very sobering…alarming…even terrifying'." Another staffer called it 'damaging'." The Jewish state's primary target: America's industrial and technical secrets.

One congressional staffer, who attended a classified briefing about this issue in late 2013, said: "No other country close to the United States continues to cross the line on espionage like the Israelis do."

This briefing was one of several in recent months given by officials from the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department, the FBI and the National Counterintelligence Directorate.

According to intelligence agencies, Israel spies travel to the US "on trade missions or with Israeli companies working in collaboration with American companies, [or] intelligence operatives being run directly by the government." Spies are thought to be run by the Israeli embassy in Washington.

A former top CIA operative told Newsweek that the level of Israeli espionage today has "rankled" many US counterspies.

"I do not think anyone was surprised by these revelations. 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," he said.

Israel is currently lobbying Congress to be put on the short list of countries whose citizens do not need visas to visit the US.

This is the first time congressional aides have indicated that intelligence and national security concerns also are considerations in weighing Israel's admission into the visa waiver programme.

Newsweek cited Jonathan Broder, who writes for a Washington political news site, quoting a senior Congressional aide as saying: "The US intelligence community is concerned that adding Israel to the visa waiver programme would make it easier for Israeli spies to enter the country."

The CIA's former national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia, Paul Pillar, told Newsweek that old habits are hard to break: "Zionists were dispatching spies to America before there even was an Israel, to gather money and materials for the cause and later the fledgling state."

He continued: "Key components for Israel's nuclear bombs were clandestinely obtained here. They have found creative and inventive ways to get what they want."

Pillar concluded: "If we give them free rein to send people over here, how are we going to stop that? They are incredibly aggressive. They are aggressive in all aspects of their relationship with the United States. Why would their intelligence relationship with us be any different?"


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