The State Department said yesterday that it "welcomes and accepts" Israeli government assurances that no espionage is being carried out on its behalf against the United States, adding that the U.S. government has "no evidence" of an Israeli spy ring here beyond that exposed in the Jonathan Jay Pollard case.
Department spokesman Bernard Kalb said yesterday's statement on Israeli spying here, following Pollard's guilty plea on espionage charges last Wednesday and an Israeli statement Sunday, "reflects the view of all elements of the administration," evidently through a high-level clearance process.
However, two Justice Department spokesmen said that Kalb's statement that "no evidence" exists of a wider spy ring may be premature and it would be inappropriate to comment on that aspect until the investigation is completed.
Officials at the State and Justice departments indicated that U.S. investigators wish to find out more about Brig. Gen. Aviem Sella, named in U.S. court documents last week as an unindicted coconspirator in the Pollard case, and another Israeli named in court documents only as "Uzi."
Investigators from Washington did not know of the involvement of Sella or "Uzi" when they interviewed other Israeli figures in the case late last year, officials said.
"Israel has cooperated in accordance with the terms of its arrangement with the Department of Justice," Kalb told reporters. In an implicit rebuke to indications of dissatisfaction from some U.S. officials, Kalb added that "quotes from unidentified sources are entitled to no weight, and these and other uninformed statements do not represent the administration's view."
Under questioning from reporters, Kalb would not say whether he intended to criticize FBI Director William H. Webster, who said last week that Israel had given only "selective cooperation" in the investigation of Pollard.
In a statement after a meeting of his cabinet Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres denounced attempts to "foul the atmosphere" between Washington and Jerusalem and said his government is committed to continue "sincere cooperation" in investigating the case. The Israeli government has said that the spy ring that paid for and received highly classified U.S. documents from Pollard was not authorized by the government.
Kalb spoke approvingly of Israel's "renewed pledge of cooperation with the investigation of the remaining issues in the Pollard case." He said in a prepared statement that "we expect such cooperation" in view of close U.S.-Israeli relations. He added that "the indictment and successful prosecution [of Pollard] was made possible through the cooperation of the government of Israel."