Last Thursday Politico published a story that “three former senior U.S. officials with knowledge of the matter” claimed the “U.S. government concluded within the past two years that Israel was most likely behind the placement of cellphone surveillance devices” called StingRays “that were found near the White House and other sensitive locations around Washington.”
The only part of the story that can be proven true is that the FBI found the devices; they never determined who was behind them, and where the data went.
Since the report was published, both President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu have denied the story.
I would suggest that the story is not only fake news but part of a liberal attempt to damage Binyamin Netanyahu in this week’s Israeli election.
One of Netanyahu’s selling points to the Israeli public is his close relationship with Trump. This story suggests the prime minister is not as close to the president as he contends.
The U.S. and Israel are extremely close allies; the relationship was damaged during the Obama administration, but has been repaired and become closer than ever since President Trump took office. Intelligence is freely shared between Washington and Israel as the two nations confront common enemies in the Middle East and are targeted by terrorists across the world.
On a personal level, Netanyahu and Trump have been close friends for over 30 years. There is no need for Israel to risk that friendship by spying on the Trump administration.
“There is a longstanding commitment and a directive from the Israeli government not to engage in any intelligence operations in the U.S. This directive is strictly enforced without exception,” the prime minister’s office stated in response to the Politico article.
The operative words of that statement are “in the U.S.”
There were reports that Israel was listening in on the negotiations for the JCPOA in Vienna. While the stories were never proven to be true, I don’t doubt them because it makes sense. Iran was and is an existential threat to Israel, and the administration of Barack Obama was hostile to the Jewish State.
Speaking of the Obama administration’s hostility, were the “three former senior U.S. officials” with knowledge of the matter employees of the anti-Israel Obama administration? I wouldn’t be surprised to learn the story was supplied to Politico by John Brennan. or another member of the Obama intelligence staff.
American Radio host Mark Levin suggests the story may have been given to Politico by Joel Benenson, a strategist for Obama’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns. And he was the chief strategist for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign. Benenson is involved in this week’s Israeli election as an advisor to Netanyahu’s biggest opponent, the Blue and White campaign.
“The Israelis are aggressive intelligence collectors, but they have sworn off spying on the U.S. at various points and it’s not surprising that such efforts continue,” Daniel Benjamin, a former coordinator of counterterrorism at the Obama State Department and now director of the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding at Dartmouth, was quoted in the Politico article.
It is also possible the claim came from former members of the Trump administration, from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s predecessor Rex Tillerson or some of his close staff.
There was a significant disagreement between Trump and Tillerson about Israel. Under Tillerson, a former oil executive, the State Department issued reports blaming the victim (Israel) for Palestinian violence and whitewashed PA incitement and the payments to terrorists who murder Jews (an issue the president raised more than once when he traveled to the area).
Tillerson also condemned active fight against terrorism, wouldn’t acknowledge that Jerusalem is in Israel (again against Trump’s policy) and supported false reports by the United Nations and anti-Israel NGOs. It wouldn’t shock me if Tillerson was trying to drive a wedge between Trump and Netanyahu.
The device used to spy on the White House, the StingRay is old technology and U.S. police forces have been using it since 2006, and DHS even earlier. That means in technology years, StingRay is ancient.
If Israel were to mount an operation to spy on the pro-Israel Trump administration after eight-years of the anti-Israel Obama White House, there is no way it would use ancient technology which can be easily detected. Especially since that Israel is one of the leading sources of cell phone technology.
Per the Israel21 an organization founded by Israeli and American technology executives: “Motorola’s Israel R&D center that Israeli engineers first developed original cell-phone technology. And Most of the technology in your mobile phone can be traced back to Israeli engineering. From the tool that guards your mobile identity to a new keyboard solution, Israeli expertise keeps your phone from getting bigger yet staying cutting edge.”
Israel using a StingRay to spy on Trump is like someone at Apple using a Commodore 64 and connecting to the web with one of those old AOL disks.
After the Politico report went viral. Nora Tarnopolsky, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, reported that a senior U.S. official denied the Politico report. The story “is completely false. Absolutely false,” the official said. Granted she was quoting an unnamed source, but so was Politico.
Putting it all together, logic dictates that the Politico story offering no actual proof and relying on anonymous sources is fake news. And the timing, less than a week before what was expected to be a very close Israeli election, was meant to hurt Netanyahu’s reelection chances by inferring that he is not as close to the American president as he’s claimed.
The Israeli prime minister’s friendship with President Trump and his conservative philosophy continues to motivate the American liberal media to attack him whenever possible.