Pentagon aide 'spied for Israel'

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The Independent US

The FBI is investigating whether an aide to the Pentagon's number three acted as a spy for Israel, giving the Jewish state classified material about secret White House deliberations on Iran.

The FBI is investigating whether an aide to the Pentagon's number three acted as a spy for Israel, giving the Jewish state classified material about secret White House deliberations on Iran.

No arrests had been made, said two government law enforcement officials, speaking anonymously.

They refused to identify the aide, but said the person worked in the office of Douglas Feith, the under-secretary of defence for policy and the Pentagon's third most senior official.

Feith is a key aide to defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, working on sensitive policy issues, including US policy toward Iraq and Iran.

The investigation centres on whether the employee in Feith's office passed secrets about Bush administration policy towards Iran to the main pro-Israeli lobbying group in Washington, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which then allegedly gave them to the Israeli government, one official said.

David Siegel, a spokesman for the Israeli embassy in Washington, said: "We categorically deny these allegations. They are completely false and outrageous."

AIPAC said in a statement that the lobbying group was "fully co-operating with the governmental authorities, and will continue to do so."

It said any allegation of criminal conduct by the organisation or its employees was "baseless and false", adding that the group "would not condone or tolerate for a second any violation of US law or interests".

Pentagon officials refused to comment, referring all questions to the US Justice Department.

The investigation, first reported by CBS News, has included wiretapping and surveillance, and searches of the Pentagon employee's computer, the law enforcement officials said.

President George Bush has identified Iran as part of an "axis of evil", along with North Korea and the former Iraqi regime. Yet, his administration has battled internally over how hard a line to take towards Iran, with the State Department generally advocating a more moderate position and more conservative officials in the Pentagon and at the White House's National Security Council advocating a tougher policy.

Israel is one of the United States' strongest allies. Yet there have been espionage cases between the two countries in the past.

In particular, the case of Jonathan Pollard, a former naval intelligence officer who gave top-secret documents to Israel, has been a point of contention in US-Israeli relations, with the Israeli government repeatedly pressing for his release.

Pollard was caught in Washington in November 1985, and was arrested after unsuccessfully seeking refuge at the Israeli embassy.

A congressional aide declined to say if the Senate Intelligence Committee had been briefed on the case but said the panel is generally briefed on espionage cases.

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