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Israel snooped on John Kerry's phone calls during Middle East peace talks

Well, if you will make basic security cockups...

US Secretary of State John Kerry. Credit: Nostri Imago, Flickr

Israeli spies are alleged to have snooped on John Kerry’s phone calls during recent Middle East peace talks.

The IDF tapped the US Secretary of State's unencrypted calls while trying to broker a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Der Spiegel reports sources as saying.

Kerry used both encrypted and open phone lines during the round of shuttle diplomacy. Israeli cyberspies tapped into satellite links carrying the unencrypted exchanges, intel sources told the German paper.

Intelligence gleaned was reportedly passed onto Israeli negotiators. The US-led peace talks were suspended in April without reaching an agreement.

Der Spiegel adds that at least one other intelligence service was also tapping Kerry's communications as he tried to broker an agreement between Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab states.

Both the US State Department and Israel declined to comment on the reported spying against Kerry.

Spying on foreign leaders is, of course, a core part of the job of signals intelligence agencies worldwide. What the latest incident illustrates is that friendly nations routinely spy on each other, a practice illustrated by American spying on the mobile phone of German chancellor Angela Merkel.

Peace negotiations are dynamic and it may be that Kerry was obliged to speak to local middlemen over an insecure line because the timing made arranging a secure conversation impractical. The risks inherent in this approach ought to have come as no surprise to the US Secretary of State because similar allegations even closer to home surfaced only weeks ago.

Newsweek magazine reported in May that Israel’s intelligence operations extend to surveillance of senior White House officials. Israeli government ministers angrily denounced the report as an attempt to harm US-Israeli relations.

Despite its close relationship with the United States, Israel was named as a top espionage threat against the US government in leaked documents obtained by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The documents, dating back to 2007, accuse Israel of trying to manipulate US public opinion (alongside the likes of China, Russia, Cuba, Iran, France and Venezuela) and label it a threat to US critical information systems (alongside India, North Korea and Cuba), Newsweek reports.

The latest Snowden leaks revealed the NSA maintained close links with Israel, sending the country "raw material, as well as daily analytic and technical correspondence" that provided data used to monitor and target Palestinians. ®

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