Israeli collection efforts against the United States

  1. Introduction

Israeli intelligence collection efforts against the United States have an impact on Israeli-US relations. This paper finds out whether the collection efforts by Israeli undermines the relationship between the two countries to the point that the United States should take a diplomatic action against Israel, or should the US consider Israel’s action as a way of Israel protecting their national security. The paper will achieve this by identifying examples of Israeli’s intelligence collection against the US, and then determining the actions that US should undertake in order to prevent espionage against the US.

Israeli Intelligence Community is a group of organisations which undertake intelligence collection, dissemination and research for Israel as a state. The organisations that make up Israeli Intelligence Community include: Aman, Mossad, Shin Bet, Israeli Police, and Centre for Political Research. Aman is a key branch of Israeli’s Defense Forces which acts as a supreme intelligence body. Mossad is responsible for overseas intelligence duties while Shin Bet is responsible for Israeli’s internal security affairs.[1] Israeli Security Forces are supervised by Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. Division of responsibilities among the various organisations of IIC is undertaken on geographical basis.

  1. Israeli Intelligence Collection

Israeli’s espionage in USA has been a common practice for a long time. An Israeli Spy (Jonathan Pollard) was given a life imprisonment in 1986.[2] After that, an agreement was made to ensure between the two countries in which no country was to spy on the other. However, the agreement was never honored from the beginning. After the case, Israel failed to release 360 cubic feet of stolen information in order for USA to carry out a damage assessment. On the other hand, the United States failed to remove its agents from Israel. In fact it recruited even more agents to operate in Israel.

One of the examples of Israeli’s spies on USA was the case of art students who were selling paintings in USA in 2001. Allegedly, Israelis were trying to gain entry into government offices facilities of Defense Forces, and residential areas of government employees.[3] Between January and June 2001, several Israelis were arrested trying to enter government offices. Most of them had backgrounds on military intelligence and surveillance. The art students were said to be selling paintings in government offices, and travelling from one state to another in expensive planes. None of them was traced to any University, though they claimed they were University art students from Israel.

Another example is the use of high-tech espionage through Israeli’s corporations operating in USA. Israel has various telecommunication corporations operating in USA, enabling them to access information exchange among various intelligence groups of USA. Amdocs and Comverse, two of Israeli’s telecommunication companies operate their businesses in United States. Amdocs has contracts with more than 25 Companies in USA and store records that can provide intelligence lead. Philip Giraldi suggests, “Israel constantly gathers proprietary information in United States.”[4] Israeli Intelligence collects information regarding USA’s economy and technology.[5] Israel uses computer to collect intelligence information and to conduct scientific research against the US. Collection of scientific information in USA is one of the top priorities of Israeli Intelligence Community.

Actions that can be taken by USA in order to prevent future incidences of Espionage

Israel’s intelligence team collects information regarding the intelligence/military actions and plans of other countries, including the US. Some people consider this behaviour of Israeli’s intelligence team as a negative espionage, but others consider it as a good way that the state could use to protect its national security. Some researchers and scholars argue that Israel has a strong espionage network against foreign countries, especially the US.  Christopher Ketchum, a Harper’s writer on Israeli’s history of espionage on USA, considers this move by Israeli’s intelligence group as a threat to United States. He argues that even the FBI considers it as a threat. Therefore, it is important for the US to take specific actions in order to prevent future instances of espionage against the US.

One of the main actions that the government of US should take in order to prevent instances of espionage against the US in future is to develop a closer relationship with the private sector. This step will ensure that the government understands the information needs of businesses that may pose threat to the country’s national security and delicate government information. The government should also take specific steps to prevent companies in US from collaborating or partnering with businesses that are considered to pose threat.[6] Economic intelligence policy can also be devised in order to prevent companies from pairing with other companies which present a threat of espionage, especially Israel-based companies. This may lead to a deteriorating relationship between US and Israel, but it may help the country to reducing spying by Israeli intelligence community.

USA should also identify espionage as a real threat to national security, and ensure that counterintelligence assets are focused on the threat of espionage.[7] The government should use its own intelligence group to watch and monitor Israel. The actions of every Israeli in USA should be monitored, and the data of every Israeli entering USA should be recorded in the FBI records so that it becomes easier to monitor them and ensure that they do not spy on the US.

  1. Conclusion

Intelligence collection is a normal function of every nation-state. Espionage is also common even among friendly countries, for the sake of national security. However, Israeli’s persistence and intensity of espionage against USA is disturbing. It can be classified as a threat to the national and economic security of United States. Israel is one of the countries that rely on USA’s military and political support in order to survive. But if it continues to spy on them the way they do, Israel-US relationship may be destroyed. Israel is therefore not a trustworthy friend of US.

In order to prevent future espionage and maintain a good relationship between USA and Israel, it is important for both parties to respect each other’s privacy. This does not mean that the two countries should stop spying on each other. Instead, the level of espionage by Israel should be reduced. If they do not reduce their espionage, USA should take its own steps to prevent future instances of espionage.



 [1] Bar-Zohar, Michael, and Nissim Mishal. Mossad: The Greatest Missions of the Israeli Secret Service. New York: Ecco, 2012.

[2] Tobin, Jonathan S. “The Pollard Spy Case, 25 Years Later.” Commentary 131, no. 3 (2011): 37-43.

[3] Ketcham, Christopher. Israeli Spying in the United States. March 12, 2009.; Accessed January 28, 2014)

 [4] Giraldi, Philip. Stealing Success Tel Aviv Style. January 28, 2010.; accessed January 28, 2014)

[5] Economic Intelligence Collection Directed Against the United States. n.d.; accessed January 28, 2014).

 [6] Hastedt, Glenn. Espionage: A Reference Handbook. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2003.

[7] Bar-Zohar, Michael, and Nissim Mishal. Mossad: The Greatest Missions of the Israeli Secret Service. New York: Ecco, 2012.


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