"There was a lot of material there," Silverstein said.
This marked the first time that the U.S. spy campaign against Israel has
been documented. In May 2010, the FBI translator, Shamai Liebowitz, was
sentenced to 20 months for leaking information of the intercepts he
processed and relayed to somebody identified as "Recipient A."
"I don't know what was divulged other than some documents, and how it
compromised things," U.S. District Court Judge Alexander Williams said in
sentencing Liebowitz. "I have no idea."
Silverstein said he was the unidentified recipient of Liebowitz's FBI
intercepts of the Israeli embassy. Silverstein, who administers a Web site
critical of Israel, said the FBI
tapped conversations of Americans with the Israeli embassy, including a
member of Congress.
At one point, the intercepts included a discussion by Israeli officials
who expressed concern that the embassy was bugged. Silverstein, who said he
first met Liebowitz in 2008, did not elaborate.
As an attorney with dual citizenship, the 40-year-old Liebowitz, the
grandson of the late Israeli philosopher Yeshayahu Liebowitz, spent years
defending Hamas and Hizbullah operatives in
Israel. The circumstances of the FBI hiring an Israeli national for national
security operations were not disclosed in the prosecution of Liebowitz, now
completing his term in a federal halfway house in Maryland. Liebowitz was
also said to have worked for the State Department and the Defense Department
as a Hebrew linguist.
Silverstein said Liebowitz, charged under the Espionage Act of 1917,
leaked the FBI transcripts because the latter was angered by Israeli
lobbying in Washington. Liebowitz, whose sentence was regarded as light for
an Israeli convicted of relaying classified information, was said to have
been concerned that Israeli officials were persuading Congress that Iran's
nuclear facilities should be attacked.
"I think he [Liebowitz] chose me because he knew something about me and
trusted my political instincts," Silverstein said in interviews with U.S.
news Web sites.
The FBI has refused to discuss its employment of Liebowitz, who held
top-secret clearance and worked under contract in the agency's office in
Calverton, Md. from January to August 2009. But
analysts said he was probably working for the FBI's Operational Technology
Division, which intercepts telephone, fax and e-mails from such countries as
China, France, Israel and Russia, deemed the leading targets of U.S.