Israeli informant identified as CIA desk officer
May. 17, 1997
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Israeli officials have reportedly identified a CIA desk officer as the U.S. official they code-named ``Mega'' _ suspected by the FBI as being a possible source of highly sensitive American government information to Israel.
In a diplomatic cable to the U.S. government, Israeli officials said ``Mega'' is the nickname that Israel's Mossad intelligence service uses for the Israeli desk officer at the CIA, The Washington Post reported in its editions Saturday.
The newspaper quoted unidentified officials from both countries as saying Israel claims in the cable that the allusion to ``Mega'' in a conversation between Israeli intelligence officials in Washington and Tel Aviv was an innocent reference to above-board channels of cooperation.
Mark Mansfield, a CIA spokesman, declined to comment on the report Friday night, and would not further identify the Israeli desk officer at the U.S. spy agency.
The FBI investigation stems from a conversation between two Israeli intelligence officials _ one in Washington, one in Tel Aviv _ in January the day after Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu signed a peace accord.
In the conversation, the Israeli intelligence officer in Washington is quoted as telling his superior in Tel Aviv that Israel's ambassador to the United States had asked him ``to go to Mega to get a copy'' of a confidential side letter to Arafat from then Secretary of State Warren Christopher.
``This is not something that we use Mega for,'' the Tel Aviv official was quoted as replying in the conversation, which was intercepted by the U.S. National Security Agency.
The Post quoted a further-unidentified U.S. official as saying the Clinton administration views Israel's explanation as plausible but noted that the FBI has not told the White House that it has completed its investigation.
Meanwhile, the Israeli ambassador to Washington, has urged his government to take harsh action against the United States for tapping its phones.
``The Americans are wiretapping us, intercepting our conversations. This can not be considered a friendly act,'' Ambassador Eliyahu Ben-Elissar wrote to Netanyahu in a letter published Friday in the daily Yediot Ahronot. ``If we do not respond in a harsh fashion we will look as if it doesn't matter to us and we are willing to bend.''
Netanyahu's spokesman, Shai Bazak, refused to comment on Ben-Elissar's letter.