US intelligence not only spied on then-defense minister Ehud Barak’s offices during 2008-2009, but also maintained an apartment opposite Barak’s primary residence for that purpose, according to a report on Sunday, which came amid new revelations of the extent of US and British intelligence activity against Israel and other allies.
In 2007, Israeli intelligence noted that the US government had rented an apartment across the street from Barak’s high-rise apartment in Tel Aviv, and observed “sizable amounts of electronic equipment” being delivered to the address, Yedioth Ahronoth reported on Sunday. Washington said at the time that the apartment was being used by a member of the US embassy’s security team.
The US Embassy said it was “entirely coincidental” that the apartment in question faced directly into Barak’s home in the Akirov Towers block, Sunday’s report said. “All we did was rent an apartment for a member of the Marines,” the embassy was quoted saying, “who was working as a security guard at the embassy.”
This is “a classic act of espionage” and “very grave if true,” said Tzachi Hanegbi, a former chairman and current member of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, which oversees intelligence matters.
In the aftermath of the Pollard affair, it was the kind of behavior that Israel “obligated itself” not to carry out against the United States, he added.
Asked whether the US Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro needed to worry that he was being spied upon by Israel in this way, Hanegbi said absolutely not
Over the weekend, documents leaked to newspapers last week by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed that British intelligence agency General Communications Headquarters worked with the NSA to intercept Barak’s emails and monitored his offices, along with those of then-prime minister Ehud Olmert. Israeli media said the US spying continued at the Prime Minister’s Office continued after Benjamin Netanyahu took over in March 2009.
An Israeli official told Yedioth Ahronoth that the revelations might be “the tip of the iceberg” as far as US spying on Israel goes, but added that so far, it seemed like there had been “no great risk” to Israel in the monitoring.
Also on Sunday, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) said he would press the cabinet to demand that the US cease spying on Israel, and Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) said on Israel Radio he expected the US to admit wrongdoing.
Both ministers also called on the US to release Jonathan Pollard, who has been jailed in the US for decades for passing classified material to Israel.
The Prime Minister’s Office declined comment.