US secretary of state John Kerry had his unencrypted phone calls tapped by Israeli spies during peace talks on Gaza last year, according to a new report in Der Spiegel.
Citing “several intelligence service sources”, the German newspaper claimed that Israeli spooks and “at least one other intelligence service” listened in to Kerry’s phone conversations at key moments in the talks.
These conversations with high-ranking Middle East negotiation partners were apparently made on regular, unencrypted lines via satellite, allowing spy agencies to eavesdrop and use the information gleaned to boost their side’s chances of a favourable diplomatic outcome to the talks.
Tensions between Israel and Kerry have been running high, despite US support for Israel which saw Congress vote on Friday to spend a further $225m enhancing Jerusalem’s missile defense system: “Iron Dome”.
Ironically, Iron Dome itself was at the centre of a cybersecurity scandal last week when US threat intelligence firm Cyber Engineering Services Inc alleged that Chinese hacking group Comment Crew stole key IP related to the system from several Israeli defense companies.
The APT-style targeted attacks are said to have taken place between 2011-12, although one of the companies involved, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), subsequently denied that it had been breached by the state-sponsored cyber gang.
The US is, of course, not blameless itself when it comes to monitoring the private conversations of world leaders.
Allegations stemming from information leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden suggest the spy agency tapped German chancellor Angela Merkel’s private smartphone.
Those allegations are currently the subject of a wide-ranging Bundestag investigation into US spying on the German government.
The NSA, along with UK listening post GCHQ, was slammed in a recent report by the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, who urged “effective and independent oversight regimes and practices” be put in place as soon as possible to safeguard against privacy abuses.