Israel was allegedly behind the Stingray spy devices discovered around Washington, D.C. in 2017, according to an explosive new report from Politico, which notes that they were primarily intended to spy on President Donald Trump and his associates. The Israeli government denies the charge, but Politico’s sources include at least three unnamed former U.S. officials who “served in top intelligence and national security posts.”
The U.S. government acknowledged in early 2018 that the Department of Homeland Security found illicit Stingrays near the White House and across other locations in Washington, but at that time no one knew who had planted the espionage devices. Stingrays are briefcase-sized electronics that spy on cellphones by mimicking cell towers, tricking smartphones into giving the Stingray installer a lot of information. Some Stingrays can even intercept calls by forcing the call onto 2G, which is unencrypted.
The Trump regime has reportedly not done anything about the alleged espionage on American soil, though it’s believed that U.S. intelligence agencies are routinely spying on the Israeli government as well.
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.”
Stingrays, also known as IMSI catchers because they identify devices by International Mobile Subscriber Identity, are controversial as a law enforcement tool. Local police and federal authorities sometimes use Stingrays to track down suspects, though the legality of their use is still in question and agencies are reluctant to talk about them openly. U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) used a Stingray device in Michigan to find and deport an undocumented immigrant, though ICE tries to deny that it uses Stingrays at all.
The IRS even owns some Stingrays, according to documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in 2015, though it’s not clear if the tax agency has ever deployed them. It’d almost be reassuring if the IRS, rather than Israel, had deployed the Stingray devices near the White House, given President Trump’s likely tax fraud on numerous occasions.
Trump has previously refused to use secure landline communications channels for a number of his phone calls, instead preferring his smartphones, which probably means that Israel, along with every intelligence service on the planet, is listening in on the president’s conversations. Former White House chief of staff John Kelly had his phone hacked, but he appears to have been smart enough to do something about it after the vulnerability was discovered. Trump, arguably the dumbest president the U.S. has ever had, would no doubt be unable to recognize the danger.
The best any American can do at this point is just hope for the best. With the Democrats missing in action and refusing to hold the president accountable for his countless crimes, there’s not much else we can do anymore to hold this president to the most basic standard of decency and good governance.