A security breach which ended over a year ago with the jailing of an Israeli FBI employee has exposed U.S. attempts to spy on Israeli officials, a New York Times report said on Thursday.
According to the report, Shamai K. Leibowitz, a self-described Israeli lawyer and left-wing activist, leaked documents of conversations recorded at the Israeli embassy in Washington to liberal U.S. blogger Richard Silverstein.
The documents, according to the New York Times report, included transcriptions of phone calls made by embassy officials, which were intercepted by the FBI's Operational Technology Division.
One FBI post passed by Leibowitz to Silverstein indicated that the Israeli Embassy in the United States provided “regular written briefings” on Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza intended for "President Obama in the weeks between his election and inauguration."
Another document described in the New York Times report describes "calls involving Israeli officials in Jerusalem, Chicago and Washington to discuss the views of members of Congress on Israel."
Yet another document described a call between "an unnamed Jewish activist" in Minnesota and the Israeli Embassy, concerning a meeting between an embassy official with Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison before a planned official trip to Gaza.
Speaking with the New York Times, Richard Silverstein indicated he destroyed the documents he received from the FBI official following Leibowitz's investigation in mid-2009, saying he recalled there were "about 200 pages of verbatim records of telephone calls."
Silverstein added that he saw Leibowitz "as an American patriot and a whistle-blower, and I’d like his actions to be seen in that context,” Mr. Silverstein said.
“What really concerned Shamai at the time was the possibility of an Israeli strike on Iran, which he thought would be damaging to both Israel and the United States,” Silverstein said.
The New York Times report came after Leibowitz was jailed in late 2009 after pleading guilty to leaking classified documents to a blogger who posted the information online.
Officials said at the time that the 39-year-old Leibowitz of Silver Spring, Md., admitted giving secret documents to the unidentified host of the Web site.
The FBI says Leibowitz held a top security clearance for his work as a linguist, and in April of this year gave the blogger documents about U.S. communication intelligence activities.
Officials would not say at the time what the information was or where it appeared online.
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