A shocking exposé in Politico reveals the Israelis have for years been planting spy devices near the White House. The report cites former senior US officials, who describe that forensic analysis of recovered cell phone surveillance devices point back to Israeli intelligence, which is believed to have conducted the operation for the past two years.
“It was pretty clear that the Israelis were responsible,” one former senior intelligence official told Politico. The report spells out, citing officials, that the planted devices are believed by the FBI and US intelligence agencies "likely intended" to spy on President Trump and his top aides.
Though it's easy to imagine the outpouring of fury and wall to wall media coverage — complete with urgent Congressional hearings — should such allegations center on any other foreign country caught spying on the White House (let's say Russia for example), the bombshell Politico report has barely made a dent in the mainstream media or big cable networks' coverage.
This is partly because the administration's own reaction has been muted, as the report notes that "the Trump administration took no action to punish or even privately scold the Israeli government" after being informed by US intelligence that Israel likely planted the devices.
Politico's sources in most instances held top intelligence and national security posts, who describe the following of the recovered spy devices:
The miniature surveillance devices, colloquially known as “StingRays,” mimic regular cell towers to fool cell phones into giving them their locations and identity information. Formally called international mobile subscriber identity-catchers or IMSI-catchers, they also can capture the contents of calls and data use.
The devices were likely intended to spy on President Donald Trump, one of the former officials said, as well as his top aides and closest associates — though it’s not clear whether the Israeli efforts were successful.
From the moment the report was unveiled early Thursday, Israel's stance has been to vehemently deny, and to even suggest the accusations are tinged with "anti-Semitism".
StingRay surveillance devices have long been known and used by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, driving controversy and concerns over illegal domestic eavesdropping.
Amos Yadlin, the former head of the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate, drove headlines by posting a statement online saying Politico's reporting is "fake news spiced with anti-Semitism” — and further cited a longtime Israeli government directive that bans all Israeli espionage and spying in the United States.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a firm denial while on a trip to Russia to meet with President Putin, calling the report "a blatant lie". The statement from the prime minister's office added, "There is a longstanding commitment, and a directive from the Israeli government not to engage in any intelligence operations in the U.S. This directive is strictly enforced without exception."
While on the ground in Sochi, Netanyahu told reporters the allegations are a "complete fabrication," and that he'd previously issued a blanket ban on Israeli intelligence spying on the US.
Israeli intelligence is likely most interested in getting a leg up on the Trump administration's intent regarding Iran as the White House mulls new nuclear talks with President Hassan Rouhani without preconditions.
By all recent indicators, Tel Aviv hopes to disrupt a bettering of relations between Washington and the Islamic Republic.