US 'still spying' on Israel's Netanyahu

US 'still spying' on Israel's Netanyahu
2 min read
30 December, 2015
Although relations between Israel and the United States continue to be solid, a recent media report suggests Washington is still not entirely trusting of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Obama and Netanyahu's relationship has hit some rocky patches in recent years [Getty]

United States intelligence agencies continue to spy on Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's communications, despite promising to curtail the hacking of its allies, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

The White House has not denied the report, which cites several serving and former US officials, but stressed the importance of its ongoing close ties with Israel.

The Israeli embassy in Washington refused to comment.

Two years ago, after rogue intelligence contractor Edward Snowden revealed the vast extent of the National Security Agency's online surveillance, President Barack Obama promised to limit spying on US allies.

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel had been embarrassed by the revelation that her mobile phone had been monitored and other allies expressed private concerns about the breadth of NSA monitoring.

But, according to the WSJ report, Obama decided there was a "compelling national security purpose" in continuing to monitor some leaders, including Netanyahu and Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Going dark on Bibi? Of course we wouldn't do that

The US administration decided not to remove or disable the "cyber-implants" it had secreted on foreign communications systems, as they would be hard to replace if they were again to become necessary.

Instead, the report says, Obama ordered that some of the hacked systems used by close allies would not be routinely monitored by the NSA, while others would continue to be mined for intelligence.

"Going dark on Bibi? Of course we wouldn't do that," one senior US official told the WSJ, speaking on condition of anonymity.

In Netanyahu's case, Washington was concerned that Israel was itself monitoring US negotiations with Iran and might try to derail the effort to reach a deal on Tehran's nuclear programme.