U.S. intelligence organizations conducted a two-year investigation into cellphone surveillance devices that were found near the White House and other sensitive locations around Washington. The report by Politico published on Thursday citing three “former senior U.S. officials with knowledge of the matter” said the investigation concluded that it was “likely” that Israel was behind the surveillance. It is believed the devices focused on collecting information from President Trump. Politico cited a 2018 New York Times article criticizing the president for lax security practices. U.S. intelligence was aware of the devices but was unsure of their sources, attributing them to the Russian and Chinese governments. This was a logical assumption since both countries have a long history of aggressively spying in the U.S. 

The unnamed officials cited by Politico claimed the U.S. intelligence now believes those devices belong to Israel.

An Israeli Embassy spokesperson, Elad Strohmayer, denied that Israel placed the devices and said: “These allegations are absolute nonsense. Israel doesn’t conduct espionage operations in the United States, period.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also denied after publication that Israel was behind the devices. “We have a directive, I have a directive: No intelligence work in the United States, no spies,” he said in a gaggle with reporters. “And it’s vigorously implemented, without any exception. It [the report] is a complete fabrication, a complete fabrication.”

One of the unnamed officials cited by Politico lamented that the current administration would not respond as strongly as the previous White House administration.

“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.”

Obama’s name came up in other aspects of Spygate as well. On Friday, Netanyahu released a Hebrew-language video in which he repeated a theory proposed by Fox News host Mark Levin, who suggested in a broadcast the previus day that Joel Benenson, founder and CEO of the Benenson Strategy Group which led the research and polling programs for former president Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns and served as senior strategist for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential bid, was behind the leak to Politico.

He then quoted Levin as saying on his show that “this is exactly like the tricks carried out by Joel Benenson. He was an adviser to Obama and now he is the adviser to [Blue and White leaders Benny] Gantz and [Yair] Lapid.”

If Obama-connected officials were responsible for spreading the rumor that Netanyahu was responsible for spying on the White House, it would not be the first time such officials meddled in Israeli elections. In 2013, Obama’s State Department provided One Voice with almost $350,000 in grants. Soon after the end of the grant period, OneVoice embarked on a political campaign titled “Victory 2015 (V15),” a campaign seeking to defeat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the 2015 March elections. Because of its tax-exempt status, OneVoice is legally prohibited to campaign against Netanyahu directly.V15 was assisted by Jeremy Bird, President Obama’s deputy national campaign director in 2008, and national campaign director in 2012. A U.S Senate investigation concluded that none of the money was used to influence Israel’s elections.

But meddling in Israeli politics is a tradition in the party of the Democrats. In 1996, President Bill Clinton acknowledged that, in the wake of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, he interfered on behalf of Shimon Peres against Benjamin Netanyahu.

US President Donald Trump said Thursday that he did not believe the report that Israel spied on him.

“I don’t believe that, no, I don’t believe the Israelis were spying on us. I really would find that hard to believe,” Trump told reporters at the White House after being asked about the report.

Several other media also noted that it was unlikely that Israel planted the devices. The Washington Examiner notes the timing of the report. Although these devices were discovered last year, the sources decided to reveal this information less than a week before Israel’s election. In his column, Quin Hillyer notes that: “American experience shows that if a news story toward the end of a close campaign seems outlandish, odds are that’s because it’s not true.” 

The Lid blog notes that ‘Stingrays’, the devices used to allegedly spy on Trump according to the report, are considered obsolete making a high-tech powerhouse like Israel unlikely to ever use them saying: “StingRay is old technology, U.S. police forces have been using it since 2006 or earlier. 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 they would use ancient technology which can be easily detected. Israel is one of the leading sources of cell phone technology.”

Source: Israel in the News