As it turns out, the speech by Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu wasn’t the communication to Congress that got the Obama administration most upset. Today’s Wall Street Journal reveals in a report from Adam Entous that Israel’s intelligence service had penetrated the talks with Iran, both through human intelligence and signals intelligence. That allowed Israel to make an international case against the emerging deal in an attempt to derail Barack Obama’s desperate desire to reach a rapprochement with Tehran.
And even that didn’t generate the most ire in the White House. No, that came when Israel had the temerity and the nerve to inform a group considered by the Obama administration as a dangerous gathering of subversives … right down Pennsylvania Avenue from the West Wing (via T. Becket Adams and Sonny Bunch):
The spying operation was part of a broader campaign by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to penetrate the negotiations and then help build a case against the emerging terms of the deal, current and former U.S. officials said. In addition to eavesdropping, Israel acquired information from confidential U.S. briefings, informants and diplomatic contacts in Europe, the officials said.
The espionage didn’t upset the White House as much as Israel’s sharing of inside information with U.S. lawmakers and others to drain support from a high-stakes deal intended to limit Iran’s nuclear program, current and former officials said.
“It is one thing for the U.S. and Israel to spy on each other. It is another thing for Israel to steal U.S. secrets and play them back to U.S. legislators to undermine U.S. diplomacy,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on the matter.
It is? As Entous notes, it’s hardly a secret that countries spy on each other, even allies, despite all the pearl-clutching that took place regarding Angela Merkel’s cell phone a while back. Countries use intelligence services for their own national security, and sometimes that means checking up on allies — especially when those allies seem intent on cutting deals with one’s own mortal enemy. The White House only found out about the penetration through the US’ own intel-gathering efforts on Israel, as it turns out.
But, er, why is informing Congress the worst part of the issue? Congress exercises oversight over executive-branch activities, even in the area of foreign policy. It had been customary for presidents to keep Congress abreast of such diplomatic efforts, especially in areas that so deeply impact national security. Instead, Congress had to get the details of Obama’s deals through the intelligence services of another nation — and instead of being embarrassed, the Obama administration wants to act as though they’ve been wronged.
Mike Doran from the Hudson Institute puts the perversion of basic American civics succinctly:
That sick feeling you get when the White House defines keeping Congress informed as a subversive activity.
— Mike Doran (@Doranimated) March 24, 2015
Entous isn’t finished, either. It turns out that Israel had a lot more cooperation from Europe than it got from the US on the Iran deal. The intel collection wasn’t all done by the Mossad:
Israeli officials denied spying directly on U.S. negotiators and said they received their information through other means, including close surveillance of Iranian leaders receiving the latest U.S. and European offers. European officials, particularly the French, also have been more transparent with Israel about the closed-door discussions than the Americans, Israeli and U.S. officials said.
Small wonder, then, that Ambassador Ron Dermer and Netanyahu leaped at the chance to speak before Congress — and small wonder that John Boehner made the offer. Obama and his advisors were keeping Congress in the dark and planning to bypass them in any deal. Boehner acted to bring the balance of power within the federal government back to a more proper status. Instead of apologizing, Obama and his advisors instead went on a smear campaign to derail Netanyahu, all in a bid to keep a deal alive with Iran while its Supreme Leader endorsed the “death to America” chants in the streets.
Oh yeah, the Obama administration had something to say about that too:
CNN: WH reax to Ayatollah's Death to America was that it was "intended for a domestic political audience."
— Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) March 23, 2015
Er … sure. As I replied at the time, that’s exactly what Western European leaders thought of Mein Kampf in the 1930s, too. This administration would be covered in shame if they were capable of feeling it in the slightest, and humiliated if they had any sense of history whatsoever.