Israel denies CIA charges of anti-U.S. industrial spying

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Israel has denied charges leveled by the Central Intelligence Agency that it is extensively involved in economic espionage against the United States.

A CIA report released this month by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence accused Israel, France, China, Russia, Iran and Cuba of trying to steal high-tech secrets for commercial advantage.

U.S. officials have long accused Israel and France of such activity, but the report marked the first time the CIA cited the countries in the public record.

"Israel is not involved in any sort of espionage either within or against the United States," said Gadi Baltiansky, a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., adding, "It's a recycling of a very old story."

The Senate committee published the CIA report, dated May 10, as part of its hearing record on current and projected national security threats to the United States.

Mark Mansfield, a CIA spokesman, said the agency provided the unclassified assessment in response to questions raised at the Senate hearing. Responses to sensitive inquiries are typically classified in order to be kept out of the record, and Mansfield declined to discuss why the CIA decided to make the blacklist public.

"We see government-orchestrated theft of U.S. corporate scientific and technological data as the type of espionage that poses the greatest threat to U.S. economic competitiveness," the CIA said in its report.

The CIA said it narrowly defined economic espionage "to include a government-directed or orchestrated clandestine effort to collect U.S. economic secrets or proprietary information."

It added: "We do not characterize as economic espionage `legitimate information gathering activities by a foreign government or foreign corporation,' even if carried out aggressively and skillfully."

Since 1985, when U.S. Navy intelligence analyst Jonathan Pollard was caught spying for Israel, the Jewish state and Jewish government employees have faced a high level of scrutiny.

Last year, a low-level field official with the Department of Defense issued a confidential memorandum to defense contractors putting them on alert for Israeli espionage. It said that "strong ethnic ties" to American Jews allow Israel to steal military and industrial secrets "aggressively."

The Defense Department later repudiated and canceled the memo in the face of a public outcry.