Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was the target of National Security Agency eavesdropping which also netted the private conversations of members of U.S. Congress and American Jewish groups, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.
The alleged spying took place despite a promise two years ago by President Barack Obama — after it was revealed that the NSA had listened in on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone calls — that the U.S. “will not monitor the communications of heads of state and government of our close friends and allies.”
President Barack Obama listens as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence did not comment to the Wall Street Journal on its report; but CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan tweeted, “In response to reports of NSA spying on @netanyahu, WH says "no Administration has done more for Israel's security than this one."
The Israeli government would not comment on the report, but Intelligence and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz told Israeli media Wednesday morning that Israel doesn’t spy on the U.S.
“Israel does not spy on the U.S., and we expect that our great friend, the U.S., will treat us in a similar fashion,” Katz told Israel’s Ynet. “If the information on the subject turns out to be true, Israel must file a formal protest with the American government and demand it stop all activities of this kind.”
The Wall Street Journal interviewed current and former U.S. officials who said that the White House wanted to keep certain allies — first and foremost Netanyahu — under "close watch." Of interest was Netanyahu’s conversations with his aides about the Obama administration’s efforts to secure the Iran nuclear deal and what the Israeli leader might do to stop it.
The paper revealed that one of the tools used was a cyber implant into Israeli networks that allowed the NSA to monitor communications inside the prime minister’s office.
According to the report, Obama justified the spying on Netanyahu because it would serve a “compelling national security purpose.”
The White House believed as a result of the intercepts that Israel was spying on negotiations last year with Iran, a charge the Israeli government denied at the time and on Wednesday as well.
“The prime minister took a stance against the nuclear deal which we saw as a dangerous deal, but the activity did not include any effort to obtain information in the U.S.,” Israeli minister Katz told Israel's Army Radio Wednesday.