The miniature surveillance devices, colloquially known as “StingRays,” mimic cell towers to fool cellphones into giving them their locations and identity information. They can also capture the contents of calls and data use.
However, the Trump administration has cast doubts on the reports, claiming the strength of the U.S.-Israel relationship means Israel would be unlikely to engage in such a hostile act.
Foxnews.com reports: A Politico story based on interviews with former senior U.S. officials claimed that the government believes Israel planted cellphone surveillance devices in the nation’s capital over the past few years. Devices were reportedly planted near the White House and other locations. The report said the U.S., following a forensic analysis, determined that agents from Israel most likely brought them here.
“I don’t believe that. No, I don’t believe that the Israelis are spying on us,” Trump said on Thursday evening from the South Lawn, before heading to a GOP retreat in Baltimore. “I find that hard to believe.”
Current and former Israeli officials pushed back hard against the Politico report on Thursday. Amos Yadlin, the former head of the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate, reportedly called it “fake news spiced with anti-Semitism,” stating that Israel bans spying on the U.S.
A reporter for Israeli newspaper Haaretz traveling with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his office was calling the report a “blatant lie.” Like Yadlin, the office said the Israeli government has a directive not to engage in intelligence operations on U.S. soil.
The president touted the strong relationship between his administration and Israel, specifically citing the establishment of a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem and harsh U.S. sanctions against Iran.
“I wouldn’t believe that story,” Trump reiterated. “Anything’s possible, but I don’t believe it.”