Following the bombshell revelation that the Obama administration and National Security Agency (NSA) have been actively spying on Israel and Congress, the chairman of the US House Intelligence Committee announced Wednesday that they will be opening an investigation into the allegations.
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the NSA conducted foreign acts of espionage on top Israeli officials, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as they lobbied against the Iran nuclear deal. Conversations of Israeli officials with American-Jewish organizations and US lawmakers were also being monitored by the NSA.
The director of National Intelligence and chief of the NSA have already been called to brief lawmakers, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) told the Associated Press.
Nunes explained that typically, top congressional leaders and the heads of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees should have received some warning of the NSA’s actions, but none were ever issued.
“We’re going to play this right down the middle and determine whether or not somebody did something wrong,” Nunes stated, adding that the goal of the Congressional probe is to “get the facts.”
In January 2014, Obama announced that he would crack down and limit foreign eavesdropping operations by the NSA. The Journal report explained that while a number of friendly leaders, such as French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were declared off-limits by the president, monitoring on Netanyahu was permitted due to a “compelling national security purpose.”
“Going dark on Bibi? Of course we wouldn’t do that,” a senior US administration officials told the Journal.
While the White House declined to comment on specific intelligence activities carried out by the US, a spokesman stated that the US only engages in espionage if there is a validated national security threat.
“When it comes to Israel, President Obama has said repeatedly that the US commitment to Israel’s security is sacrosanct. This message has always been backed by concrete actions,” stated Ned Price, the spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council.
In response to the Journal’s report, Yisrael Katz, Israel’s Intelligence and Transportation Minister, said that “Israel does not spy on the US, and we expect that our great friend, the US, will treat us in a similar fashion.”
“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,” he told Ynet.
Former Israeli national security adviser Yaakov Amidor told Army Radio that “the US listens in on everyone” and that “we don’t need to get excited about it.”
“Everyone knows – it’s a fact. Israel is careful not to carry out any spying operations in the United States, not even a little bit.