Israel denies spying on Trump’s White House

According to the report, the Trump administration was aware of the developments

epa07835192 US President Donald J. Trump (L) and First Lady Melania Trump observe a moment of silence on the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks at the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 11 September 2019. President Trump and the First Lady will participate in the Pentagon 9/11 ceremony later in the morning.  EPA/SHAWN THEW
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A bombshell report published on Thursday alleged that the Israeli government planted devices to spy on the White House, eliciting strong denial from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The news site Politico quoting three former US officials saying "the US government concluded within the last two years that Israel was most likely behind the placement of cell-phone surveillance devices that were found near the White House and other sensitive locations around Washington, DC."

According to the report, the Trump administration was aware of the developments but “did not rebuke the Israeli government, and there were no consequences for Israel’s behaviour.”

Miniature surveillance devices, colloquially known as ‘StingRays’, were reportedly placed around Washington and the White House. The devices fool phones into passing on their location and identity information and can also be used to see or hear the content of calls as well as data use.

These tactics 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.”

The US government concluded Israel was involved sometime between 2018 and now, according to the report.

But Israeli officials issued strong rebuke of the report.

Speaking to reporters on his way to Russia on Thursday, Mr Netanyahu called it “a blatant lie.”

"This is a blatant lie. There is a longstanding commitment, and a directive from the Israeli government not to engage in any intelligence operations in the US. This directive is strictly enforced without exception,” Mr Netanyahu was quoted as saying.

Amos Yadlin, the former head of the Israeli Military Intelligence, also blasted the report calling it "fake news spiced with anti-Semitism.”

Politico's report comes one week before contentious Israeli elections and amid some reported tension between Mr Netanyahu and Mr Trump.

Axios reported on Aug 29 that Mr Netanyahu, in his attempt to block a meeting between the US and Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, “frantically tried to” but failed to get President Trump on the phone while he was at the G7 meeting in France.

Concerns are also growing in Israel about a possible meeting between Mr Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York in two weeks.

According to Haaretz, the Israeli security establishment now believes the meeting is a “done deal”, even as US officials still insist that no plans are in place for such event yet.