Israel reportedly spied on Iran talks, leaked details to Congress

John Kerry and Benjamin Netanyahu, frenemies
(Image credit: Gali Tibbon - Pool/ Getty Images)

Israeli intelligence was eavesdropping on closed-door nuclear negotiations between Iran and the U.S. and other world powers, then passing the classified information along to the U.S. Congress to try and pre-emptively scuttle the deal, The Wall Street Journal reports, citing "interviews with more than a dozen current and former U.S. and Israeli diplomats, intelligence officials, policymakers, and lawmakers."

The White House, which learned of the espionage early on in the talks, was more upset about Israel using selected bits of purloined information to try and undermine the sensitive nuclear negotiations than the actual spying, explains the Journal's Adam Entous:

The U.S. and Israel, longtime allies who routinely swap information on security threats, sometimes operate behind the scenes like spy-versus-spy rivals. The White House has largely tolerated Israeli snooping on U.S. policymakers — a posture Israel takes when the tables are turned. The White House discovered the operation, in fact, when U.S. intelligence agencies spying on Israel intercepted communications among Israeli officials that carried details the U.S. believed could have come only from access to the confidential talks, officials briefed on the matter said. [Wall Street Journal]

A senior official in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office denied that Israel spied directly on the U.S., but "U.S. officials said Israel has long topped the list of countries that aggressively spy on the U.S., along with China, Russia, and France," Entous reports. "The U.S. expends more counterintelligence resources fending off Israeli spy operations than any other close ally, U.S. officials said." Read the entire fascinating look at the Israel-U.S. spying game at The Wall Street Journal.

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.