After promising to refrain from spying on allies, the Obama administration has reportedly been spying specifically on Prime Minister Netanyahu to gain information on Israel’s intentions concerning its efforts to thwart the nuclear deal with Iran.
By: Atara Beck, World Israel News
President Barack Obama ordered the National Security Agency (NSA) to spy on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli government during the nuclear negotiations with Iran, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.
According to the report, the NSA spied on Israel to provide the Obama administration with information on Netanyahu’s plans and Israel’s efforts to thwart the nuclear deal.
Due to the perceived importance of intercepted communications, the NSA would send a report within six hours of receiving information, a former senior official told the WSJ.
The report describes the various methods and “cyber-implants” used to intercept Netanyahu’s phone calls.
NSA eavesdropping revealed to the White House how Netanyahu and his advisers had leaked details of the US-Iran negotiations, supposedly to undermine the talks.
This operation was carried out even after Obama announced two years ago he would curtail the NSA’s eavesdropping program on allies. Obama maintained the monitoring of Netanyahu on the grounds that it served a “compelling national security purpose,” according to current and former US officials quoted in the report.
It also described how the Obama administration spied on Israel’s embassy in Washington and tracked its activities.
The Obama administration apparently spied on Congress, and was well aware of the sensitivity of the issue. The NSA did not receive guidelines on what or what not to do. This raised fears, an “oh-s**t moment,” one senior official said, that the executive branch would be accused of spying on Congress.
Washington and Jerusalem both declined to comment on the report.
Contacted by AFP, the White House did not deny the report, but stressed the importance of its ongoing close ties with Israel.
The Obama administration has already been entangled in scandals regarding its spying on allies when it was revealed in January 2014 that it was spying on 35 world leaders, and especially German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The Wall Street Journal noted that its account, stretching over both terms of the Obama administration, is based on interviews with more than two dozen current and former intelligence and administration officials and reveals for the first time the extent of American spying on the Israeli prime minister.
Ya’acov Amidror, former head of Israel’s National Security Council (NSC) dismissed the report as negligible, saying the US spied on everyone.
Speaking to Israel’s IDF Radio, he said was not surprised by the report, and “the US eavesdrops on everyone, so there is no need to get excited about it. Everyone knows this – it’s a fact.” He also said that Israel totally refrains from spying on the US.
Also responding to the report on IDF Radio, Minister of Transportation Yisrael Katz denied that Israel was spying on the US. “I am talking about the fact that Israel does not operate in any way to obtain information in the US on any US entity. We are very careful about that.”