Will spying on Israel be fair game with Donald Trump as president? Maybe.
In an interview on Sunday with CBS’ “Face the Nation”, the leading Republican presidential was asked about last week’s report in The Wall Street Journal, which said that President Barack Obama continued to spy after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, even after he announced two years ago he would curtail the National Security Agency’s (NSA) eavesdropping program on friendly heads of state.
Asked if he, as president, would say no spying on Israeli officials at all, Trump said he would not rule out spying on Israeli officials if that helped make the United States “great”.
“I would certainly not want to do it,” he said. “But I have to say this. We're being spied on by everybody. And it's terrible what is going on in that whole thing. We find out that we're being spied on by them. And they're being spied — everything is out.”
“The one bad thing about the computer generation — I have a son. He's 9 years old, and he can virtually take apart any computer,” Trump continued. “These people are so brilliant with computers. In the old days, when you're fighting a war, you give somebody an armed guard, and he has an envelope in his pocket. And he hands it to the general.”
“Now it's going through so many channels, you don't know who is getting it. It's a real problem,” he said.
Asked whether he would leave open the possibility of spying on anybody, even allies, Trump replied, “I would say that I would leave open possibilities of doing whatever it takes to make our country very, very strong and to make our country great again.”
Likud ministers responded angrily to the report on the spying last week and demanded that Israel protest Washington’s action.
"If the information that was published is shown to be true, Israel should submit an official protest to the American administration, and demand that it stop all activity of this sort," Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz stated.
Immigrant Absorption Minister Ze'ev Elkin said the report highlighted the hypocrisy of the White House in its harsh treatment of convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard.
"Precisely on the background of the spying, in opposition to the official declaration that they stopped listening in on friendly states, their stubbornness on the case of (Jonathan) Pollard, the limitations on him and the refusal to bring him to Israel seem even more unacceptable," Elkin said.
Netanyahu's office, as well as the spokesman of the foreign ministry, declined to comment on the report.
Following the revelation, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes, said his committee will look into the report and added that he had asked the director of National Intelligence and the head of the NSA to come to Capitol Hill to brief lawmakers on the matter.