Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronoth reported Sunday that Israeli defense officials discovered the U.S. government once rented an apartment right across the street from the building in Tel Aviv where Defense Minister Ehud Barak lived — a move the U.S. Embassy insisted was “entirely coincidental.”
Israeli intelligence noticed that “sizable amounts of electronic equipment” were delivered to the apartment, though U.S. officials at the time insisted that the home was being rented for a Marine deployed on the U.S. embassy security team, the report said.
The U.S. Embassy reportedly said then that the renting of the apartment across from Barak’s home in the posh Akirov Towers was “entirely coincidental.”
“Washington insisted there was no causal link between Barak’s appointment and the renting of the apartment” in June 2007 Yediot reported.
This latest allegation follows reports on Friday based on documents leaked by former NSA staffer Edward Snowden that the NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ in 2009 monitored an email address belonging to then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as well as the emails of other senior defense officials.
Barak has not as yet commented on these latest revelations, but while serving in office said that he took precautions, assuming there were those interested in monitoring him.
Other Israeli media over the weekend reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu takes extraordinary measures to protect his communications, including having no computer or personal telephone in his office, not using email, and resorting to gestures instead of words during particularly sensitive discussions.
Member of Knesset Tzachi Hanegbi, who sits on the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, on Sunday called the apartment renting “a classic act of espionage” and “very grave if true.”
“Monitoring the prime minister and the defense minister is unacceptable,” Minister of Intelligence Yuval Steinitz said.
Former Prime Minister Olmert told Yediot that the email account reportedly being spied upon was “public, and the chance that any security or intelligence damage was made is close to nothing.”
Israeli officials began linking the spying allegations with the ongoing imprisonment of Jonathan Pollard, who was convicted in 1987 of spying for Israel and is currently serving a life sentence.
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said, “Now the secret is out. The United States has been systematically spying on the political-security leadership. Is that what friends do? Pollard was arrested for much less. I intend to propose to the cabinet today that Israel demand an American commitment to stop the surveillance and immediately release Pollard in light of recent reports.”