Israel on Thursday denied a report by Washington-based news site Politico claiming that it had placed cellphone surveillance devices in sensitive locations around Washington, including near the White House. They mimic cell towers in a bid to fool cellular telephones into passing on their location and other identifying information, as well as call and data information.
Politico reported on Thursday, citing "three former senior USA officials with knowledge of the matter", that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other US security agencies "felt confident that Israeli agents had placed the devices" in Washington D.C.
Another U.S. official noted that "spying in Washington is. a blatantly obvious daily occurrence", without referencing any specific country. The prime minister was en route Thursday to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin before Israelis head to the polls on September 17.
That would be a deep contrast to the years-long diplomatic strain that followed the sentencing of Jonathan Pollard, a former USA intelligence analyst who pleaded guilty to spying for Israel and who was later granted Israeli citizenship.
Amos Yadlin, a former IDF general who headed the Intelligence Directorate, derided the report as "fake news seasoned with anti-Semitism".
"It was pretty clear that the Israelis were responsible", said a former senior intelligence official, according to Politico.
Israel set up scanners to intercept cellphone communications in the area around the White House in Washington, according to a report Thursday which was denied by the Jewish state.
While the agency itself has not called Iran's cooperation inadequate, Israel has accused Tehran of operating secret nuclear facilities in violation of the 2015 nuclear deal, while he U.S. has said there are "questions about possible undeclared nuclear activities".
"The United States and Israel share between them a great deal of intelligence information and work together to prevent threats and to strengthen the security of the two states", he said.
"Israel's policy for decades has unequivocally banned spying in the United States. I would find that hard to believe", he said.
The report quoted three unnamed former senior U.S. officials "with knowledge of the matter".
It was not the first time Israel has been accused of spying against its close ally. "This is pure nonsense, Israel learned its lesson the hard way with Pollard, and made a clear decision never to risk the relationship so severely again". He only got out of jail in the U.S.in 2015, after years of consistent lobbying from the Israeli government, including Netanyahu personally.