Israel decries U.S. snooping; presses for spy's release

Tuesday, December 24, 2013 - 11:18am

Israeli officials are protesting revelations of National Security Agency snooping on their leaders, while also taking the opportunity to press for the United States to release an Israeli spy.

Jonathan Pollard, a former U.S. Navy intelligence analyst who spied for Israel in the 1980s, is serving a life sentence for espionage; Israel has acknowledged he was an intelligence asset and has pushed for years to have him released.

The NSA allegations surfaced in the New York Times last week based on a leak from former agency contractor Edward Snowden.

After a few days of silence, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a political party gathering Monday that he had asked the United States to explain the reports, adding that spying among close allies is unacceptable.

Netanyahu also said he met with Pollard's wife, Esther, to update her on efforts to win her husband's release.

Some U.S. observers found irony in the twin Israeli reactions.

Stewart Baker, a former Homeland Security official in the administration of President George W. Bush, called it hypocrisy.

"Israel has taken chutzpah to new heights --- simultaneously demanding that the United States stop spying on Israel and that it release the guy caught spying on the United States for Israel," he said in a blog post on The Volokh Conspiracy.

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