The United States National Security Agency reportedly spied on Israeli lawmakers and ended up obtaining information from private conversations with U.S. lawmakers during negotiations about the Iran Nuclear Deal.
According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, President Obama monitored the activities of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu because it served a “compelling national security purpose,” which ultimately gave the White House insight into Israel’s campaign to combat a nuclear deal with Iran.
The White House reportedly let the NSA decide “what to share and what to withhold,” and as a result it learned that Netanyahu and his advisors “leaked details of the U.S.-Iran negotiations—learned through Israeli spying operations- to undermine the talks; coordinated talking points with Jewish-American groups against the deal; and asked undecided lawmakers what it would take to win their votes.”
As previously reported, in March, both Netanyahu and former U.S. House Speaker John Boehner denied allegations that Israel spied on nuclear negotiations between the United States and Iran, and then gave the stolen classified information to Congressional Republicans to sway their vote.
Following the revelation from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that the NSA was spying on and collecting metadata from innocent Americans in June 2013, Obama promised that the U.S. “will not eavesdrop on the heads of state or government of close U.S. friends and allies, unless there is a compelling national security purpose” in Jan. 2014.
While diplomats such as French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel made Obama’s “protected list,” the WSJ’s report noted that Netanyahu and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan did not.
According to the report, a former Obama administration official claimed that the NSA was “so proficient at monitoring heads of state that it was common for the agency to deliver a visiting leader’s talking points to the president in advance.”
After Boehner invited Netanyahu to address Congress in January 2015 without consulting the White House, the NSA reportedly realized that it was collecting data from Israeli lawmakers’ conversations with U.S. congress members. The report noted that while NSA rules require all names be changed to “U.S. person” in intelligence reports, senior U.S. officials can still request the names directly.