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FBI looks at Pentagon worker in Israel spy probe

Knesset official: 'Israel is not spying in the United States'

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The FBI investigates allegations of a spy in the Pentagon.
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Espionage and Intelligence

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The FBI has evidence that a person who has been working at the Pentagon may be a spy for Israel, senior U.S. officials have confirmed to CNN.

The worker could have been in a position to influence Bush administration policy toward Iran and Iraq, one of the officials said on Friday.

However, another government official said the worker is "not in a level to influence policy."

"He is an analyst in an undersecretary's office," this official said.

A senior Pentagon official confirmed to CNN that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld "had been made generally aware that the Justice Department had an investigation going on."

The Pentagon issued a statement Friday, confirming it "has been cooperating with the Department of Justice on this matter for an extended period of time."

"It is the [Department of Defense] understanding that the investigation within the DOD is limited in its scope."

Government officials said a decision on whether to prosecute has not been made. They say there may not be charges at all, and if there are, there may not be espionage charges.

CBS News, which first reported the story, said the FBI had developed evidence, including photographs and conversations recorded through wiretaps.

The network said the alleged spy has ties to two senior Pentagon officials: Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith.

Israel, lobbying group deny allegations

David Siegel, a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, denied the allegations.

"The United States is Israel's most cherished friend and ally. We have a strong, ongoing, working relationship at all levels, and in no way would Israel do anything to impair this relationship."

Yuval Steinitz, chairman of the Israeli Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, was equally firm in his denial.

"I can tell you with confidence that Israel is not spying in the United States or in the Pentagon -- period," Steinitz said Saturday. "Since the [Jonathan] Pollard case 20 years ago, there was clear and firm decision not to spy against the United States government or in the United States, and therefore I am 100 percent confident that there is no Israeli involvement in this case."

Pollard, a former U.S. Navy intelligence analyst, is serving a life sentence for passing classified material to Israel.

In this case, officials said the worker passed classified documents to Israel through the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group.

But AIPAC released a statement late Friday calling the news reports "false and baseless."

The statement said AIPAC learned Friday that "the government is investigating an employee of the Department of Defense for possible violations in handling confidential information."

A designation of the material in question as confidential would indicate a much lower level of secrecy than if it had been designated as classified.

AIPAC said it "is cooperating fully" with government authorities, including providing documents and information and making staff members available for interviews. Sources told CNN that two AIPAC employees have been interviewed in the case by the FBI.

"Neither AIPAC nor any of its employees has violated any laws or rules, nor has AIPAC or its employees ever received information they believed was secret or classified," the statement said.

"AIPAC is an American organization comprised of proud and loyal U.S. citizens committed to promoting American interests. We do not condone or tolerate any violation of any U.S. law or interests."

Washington insiders note that it is not unusual for friendly governments to have access to certain classified information, so even if the allegations are correct, not everyone involved may have thought they were involved in espionage.

Still, one U.S. source is calling the case "a very serious matter."

The Justice Department, speaking for the FBI, refused to comment, saying only, "We cannot confirm or deny the report."

An FBI spokesman said the bureau has no comment on the CBS report.

CNN's David Ensor, Barbara Starr, Kelli Arena and Terry Frieden contributed to this report.

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