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May 12, 2014 3:11 pm

King David Hotel Manager Dismisses Newsweek Spying Report – Air Conditioner Vent Too Small for ‘Even a Cat’

avatar by Joshua Levitt

U.S Vice President Al Gore with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Jerusalem's King David Hotel, May 1, 1998. Photo: Screenshot / Pool Footage.

U.S Vice President Al Gore with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Jerusalem's King David Hotel, May 1, 1998. Photo: Screenshot / Pool Footage.

The manager of the King David Hotel, in Jerusalem, said a report by  Newsweek’s Jeff Stein, that an Israeli spy was caught in an air conditioner duct while spying on then U.S. Vice President Al Gore in 1998, was “ridiculous,” as the air duct is actually “so small that even a cat cannot walk in it.”

Speaking to The Algemeiner, Dror Danino-Forsyth, the hotel’s manager, said, unlike in big U.S. hotels, the air conditioning system in most Israeli hotels, including Jerusalem’s King David, is a set of small vents that heat or cool air in the rooms, rather than being pumped in through a large duct that a man could crawl through, as described in the Newsweek report.

“I can confirm that the story is ridiculous,” Danino-Forsyth said. “There is a small pipe that brings some fresh air into the room, and it is so small that even a cat cannot walk in it.”

Danino-Forsyth said Gore stayed at the five-star King David during his 1998 trip and U.S. pool transcripts and footage show Gore meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the hotel’s lobby on May 1, 1998.

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The architectural inconsistency would invalidate the anecdote relayed by Stein from an unnamed U.S. Secret Service agent.

Stein wrote:

According to a senior former U.S. intelligence operative, a Secret Service agent who was enjoying a moment of solitude in Gore’s bathroom before the Veep arrived heard a metallic scraping sound. ‘The Secret Service had secured [Gore’s] room in advance and they all left except for one agent, who decided to take a long, slow time on the pot,’ the operative recalled for Newsweek. ‘So the room was all quiet, he was just meditating on his toes, and he hears a noise in the vent. And he sees the vent clips being moved from the inside. And then he sees a guy starting to exit the vent into the room.’

Did the agent scramble for his gun? No, the former operative said with a chuckle. ‘He kind of coughed and the guy went back into the vents.’

The Newsweek article tried to use the anecdote to describe systematic spying by Israel on U.S. politicians, an act that was vehemently denied by Jerusalem last week. The article followed up an earlier piece by Stein, quoting largely unnamed intelligence officers, making those same allegations, which Stein tried to tie to possible political reticence over approving Israel’s application to become one of 28 countries with an expedited visa agreement for its citizens to enter the U.S.

One of the original article’s few named sources was retired CIA officer Paul Pillar, whose impartiality was questioned because of his unabashed (and unmentioned) support for the recent American Studies Association boycott of Israeli universities, a move that has been condemned by some 200 university presidents.

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