The United States believes Israel is responsible for planting listening devices near the White House and in other "sensitive" spots in the U.S. capital, Politico reported Thursday, citing "three former senior U.S. officials with knowledge of the matter."
Israel vehemently denied the report, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office called a "blatant lie."
Politico said that the listening devices, known as “StingRays,” monitor cell phone activity by imitating normal cell phone towers and fooling cell phones into providing data on the location and identity of the users.
The FBI and other agencies came to the conclusion that Israel was behind the espionage, based on forensic evidence, the former officials told Politico.
The report cited one former official as saying that the devices were likely meant to spy on President Donald Trump, his senior aides and other close associates.
Politico quoted a ex-senior intelligence official as saying that, “It was pretty clear that the Israelis were responsible.”
According to the report, Israel has not faced any consequences from the U.S. for the alleged espionage.
Politico said that the president has been notoriously careless in security protocols, such as failing to use a secured cell phone, and cited his denial of a New York Times report in October 2018 that Chinese spies were tapping his calls.
The president said the Times report was “so incorrect I do not have time here to correct it.”
At that point, Politico said, officials at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had already uncovered evidence of the "StingRays" around Washington, D.C., but was unable to peg their specific source.
The findings were apparently relayed to relevant federal agencies, Politico reported, based on a letter by top DHS official Christopher Krebs to Senator Ron Wyden of (D-OR) in May of 2018.
The article quotes Israeli Embassy spokesperson Elad Strohmayer as denying that Israel was behind the surveillance devices.
"These allegations are absolute nonsense," Strohmayer told Politico. "Israel doesn’t conduct espionage operations in the United States, period."
Foreign Minister Israel Katz also denied the claims Thursday, echoing Strohmayer by saying that, "Israel does not conduct any spying operations in the United States."
The Prime Minister's Office also said that it was Israeli government policy not to spy on the U.S.
"There is a longstanding commitment, and a directive from the Israeli government not to engage in any intelligence operations in the U.S. This directive is strictly enforced without exception," Netanyahu's office said.