A senior U.S. official denied a Politico report claiming the U.S. government concluded that Israel was “most likely” behind the placement of eavesdropping devices purportedly found in the vicinity of the White House.
The Politico story “is completely false. Absolutely false. I checked,” the senior U.S. official was quoted as saying by Noga Tarnopolsky, a special correspondent for the Los Angeles Times.
#Breaking: A senior administration official told the Los Angeles Times the POLITICO story "is completely false. Absolutely false. I checked."
— Noga Tarnopolsky (@NTarnopolsky) September 12, 2019
The Politico report cited “three former senior U.S. officials with knowledge of the matter” as claiming that the “U.S. government concluded within the past two years that Israel was most likely behind the placement of cellphone surveillance devices that were found near the White House and other sensitive locations around Washington.”
The anonymously sourced story continued:
The miniature surveillance devices, colloquially known as “StingRays,” mimic regular cell towers to fool cellphones into giving them their locations and identity information. Formally called international mobile subscriber identity-catchers or IMSI-catchers, they also can capture the contents of calls and data use.
The Politico article admitted that such devices can be made by “sophisticated hobbyists” or those willing to pay more than $150,000 for each device:
IMSI-catchers, which are often used by local police agencies to surveil criminals, can also be made by sophisticated hobbyists or by the Harris Corp., the manufacturer of StingRays, which cost more than $150,000 each, according to Vice News.
The Israeli government pushed back hard against the report.
Elad Strohmayer, a spokesperson for the Israeli embassy in D.C., stated: “These allegations are absolute nonsense. Israel doesn’t conduct espionage operations in the United States, period.”
Asked about the Politico article by reporters, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu strongly denied any surveillance efforts against the U.S.
“We have a directive, I have a directive: No intelligence work in the United States, no spies,” Netanyahu stated. “And it’s vigorously implemented, without any exception. It [the report] is a complete fabrication, a complete fabrication.”
While Israeli government policy does not allow spying in America, the Obama administration notoriously reportedly spied on Netanyahu and other Israeli officials. Another Obama-era intelligence community action reportedly spied on American citizens who opposed the Iran nuclear deal.
In 2015, The Wall Street Journal cited current and former U.S. officials at the time divulging that U.S. surveillance programs captured communications between members of Congress and Israeli leaders, providing intelligence information about Israeli efforts to lobby against the JCPOA.
According to officials cited in the report, the Obama-era National Security Agency zeroed in on targeting Netanyahu himself and those around him.
The Journal further reported that the surveillance “also swept up the contents of some of their private conversations with U.S. lawmakers and American-Jewish groups.”
There is a larger theme of the Obama administration utilizing spy agencies for controversial purposes. As part of the questionable Russia collusion probe, former Obama-era national security adviser Susan Rice reportedly unmasked senior members of Trump’s presidential campaign.
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.