Israel takes credit for 1950s spy coup

Israeli intelligence services provided the West with a copy of former Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschev's landmark speech to the 20th Communist Congress in 1956 in which the excesses of Stalinism were officially revealed for the first time.

Iser Harel, former head of the Israeli Mossad, revealed Israel's role in an interview with the daily Maariv over the weekend. It is the first time any Israeli source has openly admitted a link to the document's acquisition, which was considered a major intelligence coup. Harel termed its acquisition an event of ''strategic importance'' to the West.

The interview with Harel was inspired by last week's revelation in the Washington Post of a Central Intelligence Agency document found in the US Embassy in Tehran. The study assessed Israeli intelligence activities and reported instances of Israeli spying on US diplomats.

Harel reacted angrily to the CIA document, terming it ''amateurish and superficial'' in its content and ''niggardly and ungrateful'' to Israel in its spirit.

The acquisition of the Khruschev speech and Israel's many other significant intelligence contributions to the West were not mentioned in the CIA report, noted Harel.

In 1956, Harel travelled to Washington to meet with the then head of the CIA, Allen Dulles. In the interview, he did not say whether that meeting was connected with the Khruschev document. He said, however, that ''the Western intelligence agencies were in big trouble'' at the time.

Israel's importance as an intelligence source brought the two nations closer together and even led to an increase in Washington's economic aid to Israel.

Referring to the CIA document's allegations that Israel tried to bribe its way into the US Embassy in Tel Aviv and consulate in Jerusalem in the 1950s, Harel said that during his tenure as Israel's top intelligence officer from 1951 -1963 there were no such attempts.

The fact that the sensitive CIA document was sent to Tehran, and was not destroyed in the embassy takeover, was astonishingly irresponsible and could cause ''operational damage'' to Israel. ''It's not for me to give advice to the Americans,'' said Harel, ''but a red light ought to have been lit for the person in charge of the CIA. A house cleaning is in order.''

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