US officials on Thursday said national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and her deputy Stephen Hadley were appraised of the counterintelligence investigation more than two years ago.

The counterintelligence investigation started earlier than the year-old criminal investigation now focusing on whether a Defence Department analyst passed secret documents to Israeli intelligence through the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

The official said the investigation centered on whether the AIPAC was acting as a “conduit” – relaying information the group collected from the administration and the US Congress to Israel.

Pentagon suspect

As part of the criminal investigation, first disclosed last week, FBI agents met on Friday with two officials at AIPAC to ask about their contacts with the Pentagon analyst.

The FBI copied one of their computer hard drives and AIPAC provided investigators with some documents.

AIPAC said it is cooperating fully with US investigators.

"Neither AIPAC nor any of its employees has violated any laws or rules, nor has AIPAC or its employees ever received information they believed was secret or classified," the organization said.

 

Last week’s announcement of the investigation into the possible existence of an Israeli mole in the Defence Department shocked many, more so with Tel Aviv being Washington’s closest Middle East ally.

Israel has denied spying on the United States.

The top-ranking Democrat on the US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, John Conyers, called for the committee to launch an immediate investigation to "examine substantial and credible evidence that Pentagon officials have engaged in criminal wrongdoing in their handling of classified material and have engaged in unauthorized covert activities".