U.S. tries to reassure Israel about security relationship after Pentagon leak: Officials
The Biden administration tried to reassure Israeli officials in recent days that Washington is committed to its security relationship with Israel after details contained in a trove of purported secret Pentagon documents leaked on social media appeared to suggest that the U.S. had spied on some of its closest allies, including Israel, two Israeli officials said.
Why it matters: The leak, which also included sensitive details from U.S.-Israeli consultations, could have major implications for the vast intelligence sharing between Israel and the U.S., especially if Israeli secrets are at risk of being shared due to any kind of security breach.
- U.S. officials have acknowledged that at least some of the documents appear to be authentic intelligence assessments put together by the Pentagon, but officials have also cautioned that some of the information in documents also appears to “have been doctored.” The Justice Department has opened an investigation into the leak.
- The White House declined to comment for this story. The State Department and the Pentagon didn’t respond to Axios' requests for comment.
Driving the news: One of the leaked top-secret documents contained a short paragraph about Israel and alleged involvement by Mossad officials in the protests against the government’s judicial overhaul.
- According to the Washington Post, the document said senior members of the Mossad in February advocated for the agency’s staff and Israeli citizens to protest "including several explicit calls to action that decried the Israeli government."
- The document stated that this assessment was based on signals intelligence, suggesting that U.S. intelligence agencies were spying on their Israeli counterparts.
- Axios was unable to independently verify the authenticity of the document. The Israeli Prime Minister's Office released a statement on behalf of Mossad denying any involvement by the agency in the protest.
- "The report that was published overnight in the American press is mendacious and without any foundation whatsoever," the statement said. The Mossad and its senior officials did not — and do not — encourage agency personnel to join the demonstrations against the government, political demonstrations or any political activity," the statement said.
Another top-secret document that was leaked and seen by Axios contained a U.S. intelligence analysis of Israeli policy regarding military aid to Ukraine and stressed that U.S. pressure could drive Israel to deliver more military assistance to Kyiv.
- The document, which was first reported by the New York Times, contained sensitive details from U.S.-Israeli consultations on the air strikes campaign against Iran in Syria and Israel's concerns about Russian-Iranian military cooperation.
- Axios was not able to verify the document independently.
Behind the scenes: U.S. officials have reached out via several channels to assure their Israeli counterparts that it's investigating the leak, the two Israeli officials told Axios. One of the Israeli officials said that Pentagon officials urged their counterparts in the Israeli Defense Ministry to not overreact.
- State Department officials also spoke in recent days with their Israeli counterparts, tried to reassure them and said the Biden administration is investigating the leak, the second Israeli official said.
What they are saying: State Department deputy principal spokesperson Vedant Patel said at a briefing with reporters on Monday that U.S. officials from different agencies are engaging with allies and partners at high levels about the Pentagon leak "to reassure them of our commitment to safeguarding intelligence and the fidelity of securing our partnerships."
- That comment echoed remarks made by Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Chris Meagher, who told reporters on Monday that the U.S. has engaged with its allies and partners about the leak.
What’s next: Eyal Zamir, the director general of the Israeli Defense Ministry, will visit Washington on Thursday and is expected to discuss the issue with his Pentagon counterparts, Israeli officials said.