Following a string of embarrassing revelations of the US spying in friendly heads of state, President Barack Obama ordered intelligence agencies to end the practice - except for when it came to Israel.
A former high-level US intelligence officer - who was codenamed ‘Robert’ and was privy to most of the United States’ intelligence information on Israel over the past three decades - made the revelation in an interview with Yediot Aharonot. He said Obama's order to spy agencies to stop spying against friendly heads of state came in conjunction with a secondary order to continue spying on Netanyahu. "We all understood what that meant," he says.
Following a recent report in the Wall street Journal, which published an investigative report about the United States’ spying efforts against their ally in the Middle East, ‘Robert’ felt the he was finally able to reveal to the Israeli press just how far the US went in spying on the only democracy in the Middle East.
"Throughout the years we've been wondering about what we perceived to be a kind of Israeli naiveté, or a certain kind of complacency, when discussing highly classified secrets on encrypted communication systems," Robert says. "After all, the ISNU (Israeli Sigint National Unit, the nickname given to IDF Intelligence Unit 8200 by the American intelligence community - ed) managed to break so many measures considered safe by your enemies, that you should know that anything that could be decrypted. You're a lot more vulnerable and transparent than you think."
Robert told Yediot Ahronot that the US had been spying on Israel since the first Lebanon war in 1982, during which Defense Minister Ariel Sharon had altercations with the Reagan Administration. Since that time, the abilities of the US to spy on Israel grew increasingly versatile during Operation Desert Storm, and continually so with the advancement of new technologies. After September 11th, when Ariel Sharon put a lot of the Israeli spying technologies and organizations at the disposal of the US, the US used the opportunity to learn how Israel’s systems worked, and encroached even further to embed themselves inside the network of Israeli communication systems even at the highest level.
Many of the highly advanced spy technologies according to Robert, had been turned towards Israel, and while Israel was able to effectively combat some of them, the US still knew quite a bit about even some of the most covert operations that Israel has been undertaking in the past.
The US, for example, knew about the Syrian nuclear reactor being built in Deir ez-Zor, which Israel destroyed in 2007.
The US also knew about The assassination of Syrian general Muhammad Suleiman in Tartus in August 2008.
According to the Wall Street Journal report, most of the recent spying that the U.S. has perpetrated against Israel has been aimed at Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his top aides.
Robert also said that he wanted to warn against the disastrous consequences of the strained relationship between the leaders of the two nations. "In the United States, the mindset coming from the Commander in Chief projects onto the soldiers, down to the most junior among them. Obama despises Netanyahu, and that affects the entire system."
Oover the past few years Netanyahu has been repeatedly telling his aides that the US is making great efforts to spy on him. Robert says Netanyahu's suspicions were justified. “The Americans are making huge efforts to spy on him lot more than against any other Israeli leader ever."
"This is an extreme situation, difficult, unprecedented in the relationship between the two countries, the kind of which I can't remember since I was a young intelligence agent during the (June 1982) Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the heightened hostility between the defense minister at the time, Ariel Sharon, and the Reagan administration. However, if you measure the amount of intelligence measures the United States is using against Israel, then the situation today is much graver."
Robert says the problem is of a fundamental nature: "The order to use this kind of spying power against Israel, even after Snowden's leaks and the knowledge that continuing this kind of activity includes a significant political risk, illustrates just how the White House regards the Israeli government. This is not how you treat friends. This is how you spy against enemies."