Danny Yatom, the retired director of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency laughed off a much-hyped story in the ‘new’ Newsweek magazine claiming that Israeli spies trailed Al Gore, America’s former Vice President during a Jerusalem visit in 1998.
Yatom responded Saturday night to the allegations that he ordered his operatives to, among other things, spy on Gore by hiding in the air vents adjacent to Jerusalem hotel rooms. According to the Times of Israel, Yatom said, “We did not spy on Gore or any other Americans either in Israel or anyplace else.”
“To be frank”, Yatom continued, “If we wanted to spy on someone, we do have a few slightly more advanced methods to get our information than to have somebody crawling through ventilation ducts to get to the hotel room of the vice president of the United States, and in Jerusalem, no less– these descriptions are delusional.”
Another former Mossad Chief, General (ret) Amos Yadlin also was quick to dispute the contentious Newsweek claim. “As a former head of Israeli Military Intelligence, I can say with certainty Israel does not spy on the U.S. Period. And military chiefs from the past 29 years will tell you the very same thing.”
Newsweek’s unsubstantiated claim is that its reporter was told by someone described as a “senior US intelligence agent” but naturally not identified, that Gore’s secret service detail found the Israeli agent hiding in the ventilation ducts after a routine security sweep of Gore’s room.
The agent, according to Newsweek “was just meditating on his toes, and he hears a noise in the vent. And he sees the vent clips being moved from the inside. And then he sees a guy starting to exit the vent into the room.””
This allegation is but the latest in an increasing stream of stories that Israeli officials fear might be part of an orchestrated campaign by senior US officials to harm Israel’s reputation as a reliable and valued US intelligence partner.
Last Thursday Newsweek ran a story – again quoting unnamed US intelligence officials – claiming that Israel is conducting extensive, aggressive espionage in and against the United States. This nefarious activity, Newsweek hinted, had not been reported before because Israel’s “powerful connections in Congress” had worked to keep the activity secret from the American people.
Israel’s Intelligence Minister, Dr. Yuval Steinitz immediately issued a defiant denial to the Newsweek allegation. Steinitz said out loud what many in Israel and the US are wondering. Namely, that “someone” was trying to damage the otherwise “excellent” intelligence sharing relationship between Israel and the United States.
Newsweek, the failed magazine, was sold by parent Washington Post Company to stereo manufacturer Sydney Harman for $1 in 2010. It discontinued its print publication entirely in 2012. It was then re-sold for an undisclosed amount to digital news company IBT Media, who recently relaunched a print edition of Newsweek that is attempting market itself as a source for sensational and hard hitting original news content. Sales figures are not available.
Earlier last week, Newsweek ran an initial story claiming it had spoken to “many” US intelligence officers and current staff people on Capital Hill – again, none of whom were identified by name, who said they were shocked and appalled by the extensive Israeli espionage activities they alleged were ill-kept secrets in Washington.