US officials have concluded that Israel was most likely responsible for installing surveillance devices in Washington DC, including near the White House, Politico reported Thursday, citing “three former senior US officials with knowledge of the matter.”
According to one of the sources, the devices were likely intended to spy on President Donald Trump, as well as his top aides and closest associates.
“It was pretty clear that the Israelis were responsible,” said a former senior intelligence official. It remains unclear whether the Israeli efforts were successful, Politico underscored.
The report stresses that unlike most other occasions when incidents of foreign spying have been discovered on American soil, the Trump administration did not rebuke the Israeli government, and “there were no consequences for Israel’s behavior.”
The surveillance devices, known as StingRays, are used to collect data from nearby mobile phone users.
The devices “mimic regular cell towers to fool cellphones into giving them their locations and identity information,” Politico said, adding “they also can capture the contents of calls and data use.”
“The Israelis are pretty aggressive” in their intelligence-gathering operations, said a former senior intelligence official. “They’re all about protecting the security of the Israeli state, and they do whatever they feel they have to achieve that objective.”
According to the report, Trump is reputed to be lax in observing White House security protocols. In May 2018, Politico reported that he often used an insufficiently secured cellphone to communicate with friends and confidants. The New York Times subsequently reported in October 2018 that “Chinese spies are often listening” to Trump’s cellphone calls.
Israel Denies Involvement
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has denied that his country was spying on the US.
“There is not a shred of truth to the claim that Israel installed listening devices in the United States. It’s simply an absolute lie,” Netanyahu said.
He added that he has given “clear instructions” barring Israeli espionage in the US and “these instructions are strictly enforced.”
“These allegations are absolute nonsense. Israel doesn’t conduct espionage operations in the United States, period,” said Elad Strohmayer, a spokesman at the Israeli Embassy in Washington.
President Trump, asked by reporters on Thursday about the report, said he did not believe Israel was spying on the US.
“I really would find that hard to believe, my relationship with Israel has been great,” Trump said. “I wouldn’t believe that story. Anything’s possible, but I don’t believe it.”