The Wall Street Journal broke news late Tuesday afternoon that the U.S. government was still using eavesdropping technology to spy on some of its closest allies, despite announcing plans it would curtail the practice two years ago.
Adam Entous, the Wall Street Journal national security correspondent who cowrote the story said the government uses implant technology to spy on world leaders and their top officials.
“What we discovered in the story is one of the early decisions that Obama made after the Snowden revelations was not to remove any implants, because he didn’t want to take away any capabilities that the U.S. has for doing its surveillance. And what they decided to do was remove so-called selectors, which are emails and phone numbers for specific individuals,” he said.
Entous said that one of the allies that was kept under close watch was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“In 2012, the intelligence community ramped up its surveillance of the Israelis because of concern that Bibi Netanyahu, their prime minister, was eyeing a potential strike against a nuclear facility in Iran," he said. "They put, in this case, a cyber implant, which they were able to use during that period in 2012 and after that period in 2014, 2015, which gave them access to these internal communications within the prime minister’s office.”
Entous said other leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande were placed on a protected list.
“Their communications would be off limits, and when it came to Bibi Netanyahu, the Israeli leader, U.S. was already monitoring him and the decision was made not to stop that monitoring,” he said.
Entous and Danny Yadron, a cybersecurity reporter at the Journal, interviewed more than two dozen current and former U.S. intelligence and administration officials.
Additional production by Praveen Sathianathan