Government agencies concluded in the past two years that Israel was “most likely” behind surveillance devices found near the White House, three former US officials told Politico.
Officials believe Israel set up “StingRays,” surveillance devices that fool cellphones into providing locations and identity information by acting as cell towers. They can also capture the contents of calls as well as data use.
One of the former officials told Politico that Israel likely set up the devices to spy on President Trump.
In 2018, several stories ran about how Trump was using an unsecured cellphone to speak with friends. By that time, Homeland Security Department officials had found the devices but at the time did not know where they came from.
“Based on a detailed forensic analysis, the FBI and other agencies working on the case felt confident that Israeli agents had placed the devices,” the former US officials told Politico.
“It was pretty clear that the Israelis were responsible,” said a former senior intelligence official.
Trump’s confidants were also targeted. “The people in that circle are heavily targeted,” a former Trump administration official told Politico.
Trump did nothing after learning of Israel spying:
A former intelligence official told Politico that the Trump administration did nothing to punish or even privately scold Israel after the FBI and other agencies concluded that Israelis planted the devices.
“The reaction ... was very different than it would have been in the last administration,” the official said. “With the current administration, there are a different set of calculations in regard to addressing this.”
“I’m not aware of any accountability at all,” he added.
Even after the report became public, Trump insisted that he did not believe that Israel would spy on him.
"I don't think the Israelis were spying on us," Trump said Thursday. "My relationship with Israel has been great...Anything is possible but I don't believe it."
Israel denies spying on US:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied that his country had anything to do with the devices or any other spying in the United States.
"We have a directive, I have a directive: No intelligence work in the United States, no spies," he told reporters Thursday. "And it's vigorously implemented, without any exception. It [the report] is a complete fabrication, a complete fabrication."
“These allegations are absolute nonsense,” added an Israeli embassy spokesman. “Israel doesn’t conduct espionage operations in the United States, period.”
But former intelligence officials aren’t buying it.
“The Israelis are pretty aggressive,” a former senior intelligence official told Politico. “They’re all about protecting the security of the Israeli state and they do whatever they feel they have to to achieve that objective.”