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Report: FBI seeks Israeli spy in U.S. government

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Israel denies it has informant

May 7, 1997
Web posted at: 12:08 p.m. EDT (1608 GMT)

In this story:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The FBI reportedly is investigating whether a senior U.S. government official has been passing highly sensitive information to the Israeli government.

Responding to the report in Wednesday's Washington Post, the Israeli government denied that it has a U.S. government informant supplying it with American secrets.

Quoting sources with direct knowledge of the inquiry, the newspaper said the investigation was launched in January after the National Security Agency intercepted a secure communication between a senior Israeli intelligence officer in Washington and a superior in Tel Aviv.

Sources: Letter to Arafat sought

They discussed whether someone code-named "Mega" could obtain a copy of a secret letter then-Secretary of State Warren Christopher gave Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in January after successful negotiations to withdraw Israeli troops from most of the West Bank city of Hebron, the report said.

The text of the intercepted conversation, which was translated from Hebrew to English, indicated that "Mega" could be a U.S. government official and had been a source to Israeli spies in the past, the sources said.

The Israeli intelligence official reportedly told his superior that the request to get Christopher's letter came from Eliahu Ben Elissar, Israel's ambassador to the United States.

The supervisor in Tel Aviv rejected the request, saying, "This is not something we use 'Mega' for," the newspaper's sources said.

Israel: Allegation 'absolutely baseless'

Ben Elissar denied making such a request. "Of course, I cannot guarantee for everybody, but if anybody in this embassy had this conversation or such a thought, he can be considered an utter fool, a fool," he told the Post.

In addition, a top aide to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the allegation "absolutely baseless."

"Israel does not indulge in any improper or illegal activity in the United States, period," said David Bar-Illan.

"It is Israel's policy not to collect any kind of intelligence on the United States and not to risk the vital bond between the two nations," he said Wednesday in Jerusalem.

Reuters contributed to this report.

 
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