It Was Bibi! Or What Did Jared Know and When Did He Know It?

Back in May 2018 I did a post about how foreign intelligence services appeared to have been trying to collect Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) by capturing the unsecured cell phone conversations from the President’s and other elected and appointed officials in DC’s unsecured cell phones. My post was the result of reporting from Wired that DHS had confirmed that unauthorized cell-site simulators, commonly known as stingrays, had been found around DC. Politico had also just reported that the President was using two unsecured cell phones, one for calls with his friends and outside advisors and the other for posting tweets. According to Politico’s reporting from May 2018, neither phone is equipped with “sophisticated security features designed to shield his communications, according to two senior administration officials – a departure from the practice of his predecessors that potentially exposes him to hacking or surveillance”.

And now, thanks to new reporting from Politico we know who was behind this: Israel! (emphasis mine)

he U.S. government concluded within the past two years that Israel was most likely behind the placement of cellphone surveillance devices that were found near the White House and other sensitive locations around Washington, according to three former senior U.S. officials with knowledge of the matter.

But unlike most other occasions when flagrant incidents of foreign spying have been discovered on American soil, the Trump administration did not rebuke the Israeli government, and there were no consequences for Israel’s behavior, one of the former officials said.

The devices were likely intended to spy on President Donald Trump, one of the former officials said, as well as his top aides and closest associates — though it’s not clear whether the Israeli efforts were successful.

Based on a detailed forensic analysis, the FBI and other agencies working on the case felt confident that Israeli agents had placed the devices, according to the former officials, several of whom served in top intelligence and national security posts.

That analysis, one of the former officials said, is typically led by the FBI’s counterintelligence division and involves examining the devices so that they “tell you a little about their history, where the parts and pieces come from, how old are they, who had access to them, and that will help get you to what the origins are.” For these types of investigations, the bureau often leans on the National Security Agency and sometimes the CIA (DHS and the Secret Service played a supporting role in this specific investigation).

“It was pretty clear that the Israelis were responsible,” said a former senior intelligence official.

There are two parts to this operational security breakdown and counterintelligence nightmare. The first is a President who refuses to follow even the most basic rules for maintaining operational security and the second is a client state, Israel, which treats its patron, the US, as if it is a hostile foreign power. The Israelis, of course, are denying that they did this (emphasis mine):

An Israeli Embassy spokesperson, Elad Strohmayer, denied that Israel placed the devices and said: “These allegations are absolute nonsense. Israel doesn’t conduct espionage operations in the United States, period.”

After this story was published, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied that Israel was behind the devices. “We have a directive, I have a directive: No intelligence work in the United States, no spies,” he said in a gaggle with reporters. “And it’s vigorously implemented, without any exception. It [the report] is a complete fabrication, a complete fabrication.”

But former officials with deep experience dealing with intelligence matters scoff at the Israeli claim — a pro forma denial Israeli officials are also known to make in private to skeptical U.S. counterparts.

One former senior intelligence official noted that after the FBI and other agencies concluded that the Israelis were most likely responsible for the devices, the Trump administration took no action to punish or even privately scold the Israeli government.

“The reaction … was very different than it would have been in the last administration,” this person said. “With the current administration, there are a different set of calculations in regard to addressing this.”

The former senior intelligence official criticized how the administration handled the matter, remarking on the striking difference from past administrations, which likely would have at a very minimum issued a démarche, or formal diplomatic reprimand, to the foreign government condemning its actions.

“I’m not aware of any accountability at all,” the former official said.

The administration’s failure to hold the Israelis accountable for this SIGINT collection operation only encourages them, as well as other foreign actors – from allies and partners to hostile competitors – to conduct similar operations in the future. It also places others at risk. Anyone who is in contact with the subjects of the collection themselves become targets for collection. So all those people the President is talking to on the phone at night in the residence or who he meets with for golf or other social events at his properties every weekend and all the people in professional and personal contact with the people around the President in and out of government who can influence him on issues pertaining to Israel and Israel’s interests become targets. You may not know where Rudy Giuliani or Lou Dobbs or whomever the President had lunch with at his golf club last Sunday are right now, but the Israelis definitely do. They also know who they’ve been talking to on the phone, having dinner with, etc. The same goes for all of Jared and Ivanka’s friends and those of everyone else in the White House and the Executive Office of the President who may be working on something of interest to Israel or just close to the President.

The administration’s encouragement of Bibi’s bad behavior, as well as going all in on Bibi’s and Ron Dermer’s, his senior political advisor and ambassador the the US, strategy to make Israel a partisan issue in the US may continue to provide short term gain for Bibi and Israel. In the long term, however, it makes it inevitable that a future Democratic president is going to have to put Bibi and Israel back in their place. Given Bibi’s attempts to write the vast majority of Jewish Americans out of Judaism, aided and abetted by some American and Israeli Jews who are now making the argument that there are religious Jews (the Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox) and then there are the “born” Jews who aren’t really Jewish*, Bibi and Israel won’t be able to count on the majority of Jewish Americans to come to his and Israel’s defense when the reckoning comes. Bibi has once again sown the wind, the question is whether he will ever reap the whirlwind.

Open thread!

* This has to be the dumbest argument regarding who is and isn’t Jewish ever. Even more so since it is being made by Jews. It takes the worst portions of the anti-Semitic arguments that Jews are a race or ethno-nationality apart from all others and pushes all Jews who aren’t as devout ,or devout in a way that the person making the argument approves of, into the racial/ethno-national category. Jews who are devout, or devout in the way that the person making the argument approves of, count as actual Jews because they’re religious. So the good Jews are Jewish because Judaism is a religion and the good Jews are observing it correctly and that is the only thing that sets them apart from non-Jews. The bad Jews are Jews who aren’t really Jewish because Judaism is a race or ethno-nationality, the bad Jews are either not observing the religion correctly or at all, and therefore because they are racially Jewish they are set apart from everyone including Jews who are Jews because they are observant of Judaism, which is a religion.

I now have a headache!






70 replies
  1. 1
    Baud says:

    No Jew! No Jew! You’re the Jew!

    ReplyReply
  2. 2
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Baud: I guarantee that by tomorrow this will somehow be an anti-Semitism thing and we’ll hear from the usual suspects who are the self appointed spokespeople of Jewish Americans.

    ReplyReply
  3. 3
    Alternative Fax, a hip hop artist from Idaho says:

    So Ben Shapiro is a kapo; not shocking in the least.

    ReplyReply
  4. 4
    JPL says:

    Since the president gave classified information about Israel to the Russians, why wouldn’t they want to spy on him.

    ReplyReply
  5. 5
    mrmoshpotato says:

    You may not know where Rudy Giuliani or Lou Dobbs or whomever the President had lunch with at his golf club last Sunday are right now, but the Israelis definitely do. They also know who they’ve been talking to on the phone, having dinner with, etc.

    Awesome! Please punch yourselves in the crotch “But her emails!” crowd, and don’t stop until I say so. Yes, you too, “I’m not going to vote” fuckers.

    ReplyReply
  6. 6
    MattF says:

    So, we can assume that the Israelis, having listened in on his private phone conversations, know details about Trump’s business dealings…

    ReplyReply
  7. 7
    Tony Jay says:

    The decision to make ‘support’ for Israel a (pro-Republican) wedge issue in American politics just baffles me. Israeli strategists must be able to see that a fi Democratic Party

    ReplyReply
  8. 8
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Tony Jay: I think you’re missing the end of your comment.

    ReplyReply
  9. 9
    Tony Jay says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    Yeah. there’s a delete request in your postbox. This Kindle is playing funny nuggets

    ReplyReply
  10. 10
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Tony Jay: Okay, I was concerned your comment simply hard Brexited before you were ready for it.

    ReplyReply
  11. 11
    mrmoshpotato says:

    @MattF: Like the list of Rethuglicans who aren’t also the Kremlin’s bitch, I’d bet the list of countries not eavesdropping on Dump is also smaller.

    ReplyReply
  12. 12
    PJ says:

    @Adam L Silverman: It’s like the pre-WW1 anti-semitic mayor of Vienna, Karl Lueger, who, when it was pointed out that he had several Jewish friends, replied, “I get to decide who is a Jew!”

    ReplyReply
  13. 13

    @mrmoshpotato: You’re sounding “shrill” today.

    ReplyReply
  14. 14
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @PJ: Pretty much.

    ReplyReply
  15. 15
    mrmoshpotato says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA: Doesn’t my baseball equipment make that ok? See Ghouliani losing his damn mind at the RNC.

    ReplyReply
  16. 16
    Cacti says:

    Always worth remembering:

    Jonathan Pollard is considered a national hero by Israel.

    ReplyReply
  17. 17
    Gravenstone says:

    With friends like Israel…

    eta: I wasn’t going to explicitly mention Pollard, but yeah. There’s rather a history here.

    ReplyReply
  18. 18
    sdhays says:

    I wonder what the Israeli’s who were listening in thought when they first caught wind of the idea to give (sorry, “loan”) Iran $15B to sell some American soybeans.

    ReplyReply
  19. 19
    germy says:

    Has Senator Schumer commented yet?

    ReplyReply
  20. 20
    Cacti says:

    Any statement from AIPAC?

    ReplyReply
  21. 21
    Tony Jay says:

    What I intended to say was –

    The decision to make ‘support’ for Israel a (pro-Republican) wedge issue in American politics just baffles me. Israeli strategists must be able to see that a fired up and motivated Democratic Party wins elections, and the only way the Republicans can keep a grip on power in the short term is by leveraging white supremacy and far-Right authoritarianism along with the suppression of Democratic voting blocs, like, frex, American Jews.

    Nothing about that spells permenancy to me, and the long term danger to Israeli-American relations if Democrats are forced to pick a side is both obvious and best solved on the Israeli side by decking Likud with a length of rebar and dumping the remains in the Dead Sea.

    But I guess if your name is Bibi and your only priority is “What’s best for Bibi today?” screw everything else.

    ReplyReply
  22. 22
    Mary G says:

    So, Adam, is Bibi going to be reelected? One site said he would have the sads over Bolton’s firing.

    ReplyReply
  23. 23
    mrmoshpotato says:

    @sdhays: Are the Iranians big on soy milk and tofu?

    ReplyReply
  24. 24
    Baud says:

    In fairness to Isreal, Trump is pro-Nazi. I’d want Intel too.

    ReplyReply
  25. 25

    @Baud: Yeah, but so is Bibi.

    ReplyReply
  26. 26
    germy says:

    @Cacti: I assume comment #19 and #20 would be the same?

    ReplyReply
  27. 27
    Jeffro says:

    Why is this an issue? Aren’t Republican presidents, Senators, and Reps allowed to sell our country and its secrets out to whomever they want (and line their own pockets while they do so)?

    It’s almost like IOKIYAR doesn’t…doesn’t even mean anything anymore!

    ReplyReply
  28. 28

    @Jeffro:

    It’s almost like IOKIYAR doesn’t…doesn’t even mean anything anymore!

    Next thing you’re going to tell me is that there’s no Santa Claus.

    ReplyReply
  29. 29
    Captain C says:

    Given Bibi’s attempts to write the vast majority of Jewish Americans out of Judaism, aided and abetted by some American and Israeli Jews who are now making the argument that there are religious Jews (the Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox) and then there are the “born” Jews who aren’t really Jewish*,

    Bibi and his supporters can fuck themselves on this. They don’t get to be the sole arbiters of Jewishness, ever. Furthermore, they don’t get to demand the support of people, as Jews, whom they then claim aren’t properly Jewish.

    ReplyReply
  30. 30

    @Tony Jay:
    It seems clear to me that Netanyahu is focused predominantly on Israel’s relationship with Palestine, and he’s willing to burn everything else to the ground if it will let him annex the occupied territories. An incredibly dangerous part of that is that he wants to encourage Jews to immigrate to Israel so Jewish Israelis have a demographic advantage over the Palestinians, and he’s willing to do things that stoke antisemitism in the rest of the world to provide them a motivation to move. I guess he figures once he has taken over the occupied territories he’ll be fine and won’t have to worry about the monster he’s created. It’s just insanely dangerous.

    ReplyReply
  31. 31
    MomSense says:

    Bibi’s the worst. I was just thinking about the uproar when Jimmy Carter’s book Peace or Apartheid came out. Now here we are 12 or so years later faced with his plan to annex the Jordan Valley, the increasing distance from any hopes for a two- state solution, and this real jews nonsense (not unlike our own real Americans idiocy) and its very discouraging.

    O/T in happier news I’m fan girling because Warren Haynes is in the same restaurant.

    ReplyReply
  32. 32
    Mike in DC says:

    They’re going to annex 1/3 of the West Bank if Bibi/Likud wins the election. They are clearly going for broke. What I wonder is what the Democratic response will be to such an act. Is there something Israel could do that would get, say, Chuck Schumer to kinda sorta condemn them for doing?

    ReplyReply
  33. 33
    sdhays says:

    @Baud: Likud is pretty ok with Nazi’s nowadays.

    ReplyReply
  34. 34
    germy says:

    @Mike in DC: He said refusing Omar’s entry made them look weak.

    ReplyReply
  35. 35
    germy says:

    @sdhays:

    The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.

    ReplyReply
  36. 36
    Baud says:

    @sdhays:

    I’d imagine Mossad may still be wary though.

    ReplyReply
  37. 37
    Enhanced Voting Techniques says:

    I really wonder what is going down in GOP land. Newt was babbling on about how Bolton tried to outwit Trump, but no one outwits the master, which basically says Bolton did snooker Trump ways the Trumplings barely understand.

    Maybe the Bolton and the Israelis did a team up? It is odd this snooping story comes out the day after Bolton was fired.

    ReplyReply
  38. 38
    sdhays says:

    @Baud: The President burned an Israeli source so that the Russian Foreign Minister would pat him on the head and tell he was a good boy, so I can’t blame them for listening in. The scandal is that Dump and his low-quality hires don’t care.

    ReplyReply
  39. 39
    MattF says:

    NYT article about the multiple splits in Israel’s right-wing coalition- and how Bibi is trying to survive them.

    I wouldn’t assume Bibi has any agenda beyond his own political survival.

    ReplyReply
  40. 40
    Cacti says:

    @Mike in DC:

    They’re going to annex 1/3 of the West Bank if Bibi/Likud wins the election. They are clearly going for broke. What I wonder is what the Democratic response will be to such an act.

    Issue a tepid semi-condemnation that mostly blames the victims.

    ReplyReply
  41. 41
    Enhanced Voting Techniques says:

    @Jeffro:

    It’s almost like IOKIYAR doesn’t…doesn’t even mean anything anymore!

    Well said Jeffro, well said. This shows us how our country has fallen under Trump. Regean was arming the Iranians and he was hailed as a true patriot for doing it. Now a Republican can’t sell our a spy or two without people whining.

    ReplyReply
  42. 42
    sdhays says:

    @Enhanced Voting Techniques: Bolton clearly outwitted Dump since he got Dump to hire him in the first place and created a mess in Iran, just like Bolton wanted.

    ReplyReply
  43. 43
    debbie says:

    * This has to be the dumbest argument regarding who is and isn’t Jewish ever.

    It isn’t, sadly. There was the argument back in the 1980s that American Jews** would never be Jewish enough. It was a real love fest living in NYC back then.

    ** I’m sure someone will come along to tell me I should have worded that differently, but as efg himself would say, fuckem.

    ReplyReply
  44. 44
    debbie says:

    @Mike in DC:

    What, you haven’t been overwhelmed by the vociferousness of Trump’s response? //

    ReplyReply
  45. 45
    prostratedragon says:

    “I now have a headache!”

    If I may, klezmer clarinetist Dimitri Schenker shreds
    “The Flight of the Bumblebee.”

    ReplyReply
  46. 46
    MattF says:

    @debbie: Yeah, there’s a non-trivial difference between back-stabbing and front-stabbing… but there’s a non-trivial similarity as well.

    ReplyReply
  47. 47
    What Have The Romans Ever Done for Us? says:

    @JPL: @sdhays: I mean, half the world or more probably tries to spy on the POTUS no matter who is in the job. These dumbasses are the only ones to roll out the welcome mat and broadcast everything through loudspeakers though.

    ReplyReply
  48. 48
    Tony Jay says:

    @Roger Moore:

    Absolutely. Over here it’s blindingly obvious that a lot (verging on all) of the ‘anti-Semitism Scandal’ that has roiled the Labour Party for two years was conceived and co-ordinated with the assistance of the Israeli Embassy. The language you hear from the likes of John Mann, Ian Austin and former Chief-Rabbi Jonathan Sachs about Labour making Britain unsafe for British Jews could have been written by Bibi, so very terrifying is the prospect of a Government that might have a bit more concern for Palestinian rights than the fee-fees of Israeli settlers.

    Wankers.

    ReplyReply
  49. 49
    Jeffro says:

    @Enhanced Voting Techniques: trumpov is so cheap, he wouldn’t even spring for a cross-shaped cake.

    /way inside baseball

    ReplyReply
  50. 50

    @Jeffro:
    I thought it was a key-shaped cake.

    ReplyReply
  51. 51
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Tony Jay: Rebar? I thought that was the primary purpose of cricket bats.

    ReplyReply
  52. 52

    @Omnes Omnibus:
    Cricket bats are rarely available outside former British colonies.

    ReplyReply
  53. 53
    Kent says:

    I’m an ordinary white American of vaguely German ancestry going back hundreds of years. Gotta say, when I was young (in the 70s and 80s) I thought Israel was this interesting liberal country full of bright industrious people. I read Exodus and all the other usual books and was generally sympathetic to “little Israel” in the midst of a sea of totalitarian Arab countries. The young Israelies I met while working and traveling in places like Central America were pretty much univerally cool people.

    These days I have just reached peak Israel fatigue. I just don’t really care anymore. The place exhausts me. I get weary of the slightest terror incident in Israel getting wall to wall coverage in the US while a bombing that kills hundreds in Iraq or Afganistan barely merits mention. I weary of all the right wing fetishism about Israel. And as I have a batch of evangelical types in my extended family, I really really weary of all the evanglical worship of Bibi and Israel. I frankly just don’t care anymore what happens there. At least anymore than I would care about what happens in say Senegal or Turkmenistan.

    I likewise don’t really care acutely about all the Palestinian issues but maybe being decades away from college I’m not really in those circles anymore. But I don’t care about Palestinian issues any more than about say what is happening in Yemen or Nigeria or Bangladesh or Kashmir or western China. I’m just exhausted by the place.

    I wonder how many other Americans share a similar evolution. I tink it doesn’t bode well for Israel if so.

    ReplyReply
  54. 54
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Roger Moore: Yeah, well, Tony Jay is British and shit. If he were Canadian, I would have gone with hockey stick. If he were Cole or burnside, I would have gone Lax stick. I try to be helpful that way.

    In addition, as you point out, a cricket bat would throw the cops off the scent.

    ReplyReply
  55. 55
    Captain C says:

    @Tony Jay:

    decking Likud with a length of rebar and dumping the remains in the Dead Sea.

    Wouldn’t Likud just float there?

    ReplyReply
  56. 56
    Captain C says:

    @Roger Moore

    : he wants to encourage Jews to immigrate to Israel

    He’ll have a hard time doing this if he and his supporters are declaring that most Jews aren’t in fact Jews. How do they think that’s going to work? “Come live here, in the land of the Jews, all you Jews around the world! Also, by the way, most of you aren’t actually Jewish.”

    ReplyReply
  57. 57
    Uncle Cosmo says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA:

    Next thing you’re going to tell me is that there’s no Santa Claus.

    Well there sure as hell doesn’t seem to be any Sanity Clause in the current Misadminstration.

    ReplyReply
  58. 58
    Captain C says:

    @MattF:

    I wouldn’t assume Bibi has any agenda beyond his own political survival.

    That and not going to jail for corruption.

    ReplyReply
  59. 59
    Tony Jay says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Cricket bat? Mmmmmmm. They do pack a generous wallop from what I’ve heard. Nut half a dozen six inch nails through the flat part and I think we can work with that.

    ReplyReply
  60. 60
    Jeffro says:

    @Roger Moore: OMG you’re right…a bible and a key-shaped cake. Great, I can’t even get my lefty grudges straight…

    ReplyReply
  61. 61
    Tony Jay says:

    @Captain C:

    Damn it! This is like Assassin School all over again!

    ReplyReply
  62. 62
    Captain C says:

    @Tony Jay: Try the Red Sea. It’s deeper and less salty.

    ReplyReply
  63. 63
    Anya says:

    Jared would only spy for money (the Saudis, the Chinese) so probably not him.

    ReplyReply
  64. 64
    Tony Jay says:

    @Captain C:

    Quite the area of expertise you’re displaying here, Cap. Let’s talk about my Mother-in-Law…..

    I keeeed, I keeeed. Plans are already in motion./s

    ReplyReply
  65. 65
    Steve in the ATL says:

    @Kent: well said. Pretty well describes my position as well, except that as a practicing attorney I assume I count as a real Jew, notwithstanding the fact that I’m Episcopalian.

    ReplyReply
  66. 66
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Tony Jay: Some of us come from areas where woodchippers are more common.

    ReplyReply
  67. 67
    Captain C says:

    @Tony Jay: Lord Vetinari (along with the pre-assassination Eternal Emperor from the Sten series) is my favorite fictional dictator. He’d do much better than Bibi as PM of Israel.

    ReplyReply
  68. 68
    debbie says:

    @Cacti:

    I just read Pollard’s bio on Wiki. Israel is still actively interceding on his behalf:

    A bill introduced in the Knesset in November 2015 would, if passed, authorize the Israeli government to fund Pollard’s housing and medical expenses, and pay him a monthly stipend, for the remainder of his life. Reports that the Israelis had already been paying Pollard and his ex-wife during his incarceration were denied.[181] After numerous delays, the bill was withdrawn from consideration in March 2016 at the request of Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israeli security officials, citing “diplomatic and security reasons”.[182]

    In March 2017, Pollard’s attorneys petitioned the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to reverse the August 2016 lower-court decision denying his request for more lenient parole restrictions. They argued that the prohibition against leaving his residence between 7 PM and 7 AM forced him to violate Shabbat and Jewish holidays, and that surveillance of his computers prevented him from working at a job consistent with his education and intelligence. They further asserted that Pollard could not possibly remember information he saw before his arrest, and in any case, the parole conditions arbitrarily limited his computer usage, but not his ability to transfer information by other means. Netanyahu also reportedly renewed his request for a parole waiver during a meeting with Vice President Mike Pence.[183] In May 2017, the court rejected the appeal, ruling that the parole conditions minimized the risk of harm he continued to pose to U.S. intelligence.[184]

    ReplyReply
  69. 69

    @Jeffro:
    The worst part is it was a shallow enough cut that somebody was able to recognize what you meant and correct you.

    ReplyReply
  70. 70
    kindness says:

    Well I hope Bibi loses in the election next week. It would help. I don’t expect that though. I don’t understand what is going though the head of about half the world right now, including the good ole US of A. Honestly what I’d like to see happen in Israel is the West Bank & Gaza be incorporated into Israel with everyone having citizenship & a vote. It’ll never happen of course. Some Jewish folk over there refuse to consider they might become minorities in their own land, just like some white folk here. Time isn’t on their side.

    ReplyReply

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