Israel 'planted' mysterious spy devices near White House

Israel 'planted' mysterious spy devices near White House
A report found that Israel was behind cellphone surveillance devices planted around the White House during Donald Trump's presidency.
3 min read
12 September, 2019
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office denied the report [Getty]
Israel may have planted a number of surveillance deceives near the White House over the past two years, Politico reported on Thursday, quoting three former US officials. 

Controversial cellular phone surveillance devices, known as "StingRays", were uncovered near the White House and other sensitive locations around Washington, likely intended to spy on US President Donald Trump, his top aides and closest associates.

The devices, which mimic a wireless carrier cell tower to trick mobile phones and other cellular data devices nearby to connect to it, were uncovered around October 2018 by the Department of Homeland Security.

The DHS then shared their findings with relevant federal agencies, the report said, who upon conducting detailed forensic analysis, pointed the finger at Israel.

"It was pretty clear that the Israelis were responsible," a former senior intelligence official was quoted by Politico as saying.

The report cited former US officials who worked with previous administrations as saying there was always a prevailing concern that Israel was spying on the White house.

"Sometimes it was sort of knowledge of our thinking," the report quoted a former US official as saying.

"Occasionally there were some turns of phrase like language that as far as we knew had only appeared in drafts of speeches and never been actually used publicly, and then some Israeli official would repeat it back to us and say, 'This would be really problematic if you were to say X'."

"The Israelis are pretty aggressive," the former intel official officer told the website. "They're all about protecting the security of the Israeli state and they do whatever they feel they have to achieve that objective."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office denied the report.

"A blatant lie. There is a longstanding commitment and a directive from the Israeli government not to engage in any intelligence operations in the US. This directive is strictly enforced without exception."

A spokesperson for Israel's embassy in Washington, Elad Strohmayer, was quoted in the report as saying that "these allegations are absolute nonsense. Israel doesn't conduct espionage operations in the United States, period".

According to the report, the White House, the FBI and DHS refused to comment. 

"I'm not aware of any accountability at all," an ex-official told Politico, adding that "the reaction... was very different than it would have been in the last administration… With the current administration, there are a different set of calculations in regard to addressing this".

A former US official told Politico that unlike other incidents of foreign spying on US soil, the Trump administration did not rebuke the Israeli government or take any official steps against it.

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