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Suspecting Israeli Spy, FBI Scrutinizes Senior U.S. Officials

May 07, 1997| From the Washington Post

WASHINGTON — The FBI has opened an investigation to determine whether a senior U.S. government official has been passing highly sensitive information to the Israeli government, according to sources with direct knowledge of the inquiry.

The investigation was launched in January after the National Security Agency intercepted a communication between an Israeli intelligence officer in Washington and a superior in Tel Aviv that referred to someone code-named "Mega" and an attempt to obtain a sensitive American document, U.S. government officials said.

The officials said the context of the conversation led them to believe that Mega may be someone in the U.S. government who has provided information to the Israelis in the past.

The sources said the investigation was focusing on U.S. officials who would have had access to the document in question, a secret letter of assurances that then-Secretary of State Warren Christopher had given to Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat after successful negotiations to withdraw Israeli troops from most of the West Bank city of Hebron.

In the intercepted conversation, according to two U.S. officials, the Israeli intelligence officer informed his superior in Tel Aviv that Israeli Ambassador Eliahu Ben-Elissar had asked him whether he could obtain a copy of the letter given to Arafat by Christopher the day after the Hebron accord was signed by Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

According to one source, the intelligence officer, speaking in Hebrew, said: "The ambassador wants me to go to Mega to get a copy of this letter."

The source said the supervisor in Tel Aviv rejected the request, saying: "This is not something we use Mega for."

Asked Tuesday about the investigation, a senior National Security Council official declined to comment. White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry, traveling with President Clinton in Mexico, also declined to comment.

Ben-Elissar said emphatically Tuesday night that his government had not engaged in any improper activity in Washington.

Netanyahu's office in Jerusalem issued a statement late Tuesday saying: "The reported story is absolutely baseless."

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