Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has flatly denied a report that his nation planted hi-tech spying devices around the White House to conduct illegal and clandestine surveillance of their top ally.
“There is a longstanding commitment, and a directive from the Israeli government not to engage in any intelligence operations in the US,” Netanyahu said in a statement, calling the report “a blatant lie.”
President Donald Trump takes Netanyahu at his word, and does not believe the report either.
“I really would find that hard to believe, my relationship with Israel has been great,” Trump said, adding that the termination of the Iran nuclear deal and his decision to re-locate the US embassy to Jerusalem give Israel no reason to meddle.
“I wouldn’t believe that story. Anything’s possible but I don’t believe it,” he added.
Politico broke the story on Thursday that cell-site simulator devices, commonly referred to as “Stingrays,” were set up around the White House likely by the Israeli government to collect sensitive data for the purposes of surveillance. The FBI and other federal agencies reportedly made that determination after conducting an in-depth forensic analysis.
“It was pretty clear that the Israelis were responsible,” a former senior intelligence official told Politico.
Cell-site simulator devices are hi-tech spying equipment that spoof a cell phone tower and then collect personal data from nearby cell phones in a blanket manner. They have typically been used in the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, but their usage has become commonplace in the United States in recent years.
“Cell-site simulators invade the privacy of everyone who happens to be in a given area, regardless of the fact that the vast majority have not been accused of committing a crime,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) explains in a primer about the dangerous devices.
“Cell-site simulators often disrupt cell phone communications within as much as a 500-meter radius of the device, interrupting important communications and even emergency phone calls,” the EFF writes.
While the state of Israel vehemently denies the spying charges, there have been several instances where they have behaved in similar ways toward their top international ally.
Legendary Mossad agent Rafi Eitan worked as the handler for Jonathan Pollard, a former U.S. intelligence analyst who is serving life in prison under the Espionage Act for handing over classified data to the Israelis.
Former Department of Defense employee Lawrence Franklin was convicted of giving the state of Israel classified documents about U.S. policy toward Iran in 2006. He was given a 13-year prison sentence, but ultimately only served ten months on house arrest for his crimes.
Also, the infamous historical fact of Israel deliberately shelling the U.S.S. Liberty in 1967 shows that no action regardless of how reprehensible it may be is outside the bounds of the Jewish state if they determine that it serves their national interest.
Whether Israel is responsible for the spying or not, President Trump is not expected to take any action against them.
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