November 19, 2019

Is There Anything to the StingRay Scandal?

“Israeli voters in the “very exciting” Sept. 17 Israeli elections should be skeptical of the weird story in recent days accusing the Israeli government of spying on the White House.

American experience shows that if a news story toward the end of a close campaign seems outlandish, odds are that’s because it’s not true. Think of Dan Rather’s false story in 2004 about George W. Bush’s supposed draft dodging. Less famously, allies of Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana planted fake news in a Mexican paper in the closing days of her very close 2002 reelection campaign, to the effect that the Republican Bush administration had made a secret deal with Mexico adverse to Louisiana sugar interests. By speaking as the supposed defender of her state’s cane farmers, Landrieu narrowly won her race.

So now we come to the Politico story that cites unnamed former officials claiming that cellphone surveillance devices found near the White House last year were “most likely” the work of Israel. My well-informed colleague Tom Rogan thinks the allegation is true. I don’t.

First, as noted, consider the timing. As Rogan notes in yet another excellent piece, the upcoming Israeli election is another nail-biter. Incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made a big selling point of his closeness to the current American administration, one which his opponents want to undermine.

Logic says that if the surveillance devices, known as StingRays, were found way back last year, it is rather suspicious that they are suddenly now being blamed on Israel, and therefore on Netanyahu, just as the election approaches. There is no good reason for Netanyahu’s government to have been spying on the Trump team, especially in such a ham-handed way, when Trump has been openly supportive of Netanyahu ever since taking office.”

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