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Israel Denies Spying on the White House

Israel Denies Spying on the White House

Friday, 13 September, 2019 - 05:00
A man walks past a Likud party election campaign banner depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump in Jerusalem September 11, 2019. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Israel has denied a media report that it was behind the placement of cellphone surveillance devices that were found near the White House and other sensitive locations around Washington.

A Politico article cited three former senior US officials who said Israel was likely to be behind so-called stingray scanners, which mimic cell phone towers to intercept nearby calls and text messages, that were discovered in downtown Washington in 2017.

The former national security officials told Politico that forensic analysis on the devices by the FBI and other agencies tied them to Israeli agents.

While the Chinese, who have been regularly caught doing intelligence operations in the US, were also seen as potential suspects, they were determined as unlikely to have placed the devices based on a close analysis of the devices, said Politico.

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," it wrote.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was angered by the report, releasing a statement in which he said this was "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,” he said.

Political sources in Tel Aviv have said that ties between Netanyahu and Trump have been shaky amid reports that the US President was considering meeting with his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, and easing sanctions against Iran.

The sources said the Israeli Prime Minister has been embarrassed by Trump's possible move at a time when his Likud party has spread election campaign banners depicting Netanyahu and the US President shaking hands.

Netanyahu often takes pride in having a strong working relationship with Trump.

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