On Thursday, Politico reported that Israel had “likely” planted “mysterious” spy devices near the White House. Their source? “Several former top U.S. officials.”
The article is entitled “Israel accused of planting mysterious spy devices near the White House.” The lede reads, “The likely Israeli spying efforts were uncovered during the Trump presidency, several former top U.S. officials said.” It can be read here.
According to Politico: (emphasis mine)
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, according to three former senior U.S. officials with knowledge of the matter.
But unlike most other occasions when flagrant incidents of foreign spying have been discovered on American soil, the Trump administration did not rebuke the Israeli government, and there were no consequences for Israel’s behavior, one of the former officials said.
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 devices were likely intended to spy on President Donald Trump, one of the former officials said, as well as his top aides and closest associates — though it’s not clear whether the Israeli efforts were successful.
Trump is reputed to be lax in observing White House security protocols.
Based on a detailed forensic analysis, the FBI and other agencies working on the case felt confident that Israeli agents had placed the devices, according to the former officials, several of whom served in top intelligence and national security posts.
Their source said, “It was pretty clear that the Israelis were responsible.”
An Israeli Embassy spokesperson, Elad Strohmayer, denied the allegations, calling them “absolute nonsense.” He said, “Israel doesn’t conduct espionage operations in the United States, period.”
A senior Trump administration official told Politico that “the administration doesn’t comment on matters related to security or intelligence.”
Trump was questioned about this story by reporters and said he found it hard to believe. “I don’t think the Israelis were spying on us. My relationship with Israel has been great…Anything is possible but I don’t believe it.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also denied the story. “We have a directive, I have a directive: No intelligence work in the United States, no spies. And it’s vigorously implemented, without any exception. It [the report] is a complete fabrication, a complete fabrication.”
Aha. Here we go. Politico writes:
But former officials with deep experience dealing with intelligence matters scoff at the Israeli claim — a pro forma denial Israeli officials are also known to make in private to skeptical U.S. counterparts.
One former senior intelligence official noted that after the FBI and other agencies concluded that the Israelis were most likely responsible for the devices, the Trump administration took no action to punish or even privately scold the Israeli government.
“The reaction … was very different than it would have been in the last administration,” this person said. “With the current administration, there are a different set of calculations in regard to addressing this.”
The former senior intelligence official criticized how the administration handled the matter, remarking on the striking difference from past administrations, which likely would have at a very minimum issued a démarche, or formal diplomatic reprimand, to the foreign government condemning its actions.
“I’m not aware of any accountability at all,” the former official said.
The former official explains many reasons why Israel would want to spy on the US. He says it would give them an edge in their diplomatic maneuvering with the US. He adds that “the Israelis are pretty aggressive. They’re all about protecting the security of the Israeli state and they do whatever they feel they have to to achieve that objective.” The source tells the writer numerous stories about Israel’s “brazen spying.”
Finally, the writer speaks to Daniel Benjamin, a former Obama State Department official, who relates even more stories about Israel’s aggressive tactics.
Politico must have taken some heat for the article because thirteen hours after it was published, an update was added which said:
This article has been updated to clarify that Daniel Benjamin had no knowledge of the alleged Israeli spying, and that the Israeli official he was speaking with was a former official at the time of their conversation.
Former US attorney, writer and talk show host Mark Levin joined Sean Hannity on Thursday night. They discussed a media report that the cell phone of former General Benny Gantz, Netanyahu’s opponent’s in the upcoming election, had been compromised by the Iranians. Levin noted that, had it been Netanyahu who’d been reckless with the security of his cell phone, the Israeli press would be in an uproar. The Israeli media is as notoriously left-wing as the US media and it treats the Prime Minister with disdain.
Levin picks up a copy of the Politico story. He says, “Politico is a left-wing news site that former Obama officials love to leak to.” He looks at the sources cited in the article. “Three former government officials, in other words, Obama appointees. Obama appointees planted this. They put it on an American news site in order to try to create hostility between our President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu who are very close. In fact, Trump and Netanyahu are as close as any president and prime minister have ever been.”
(Note: Both Ben Rhodes and Joel Benenson write for Politico. Rhodes served as Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications in Obama administration. Benny Gantz is Netanyahu’s current opponent.)
Follow this. Ben Rhodes, he was close to who? Joel Benenson. Who’s Joel Benenson, America? He was a strategist for Obama in 2008 and 2012 in his campaigns, a strategist for Hillary Clinton in her 2016 campaign. Who is he a strategist for now? Benny Gantz and the Blue and White Party.
Levin holds up the Politico article and says:
This is a dirty trick. Because Americans and Israelis need to know that the left wing in our country and the media in this country are like this. (places middle finger over index finger) They work together just as they do in Israel. They’re trying to take out Netanyahu just as they’re trying to take out Trump today.
What a stunning coincidence.
Watch the video.