Yesterday, I called the State Department press office to ask for comment on my report that not only Israel, but Russia as well are intercepting John Kerry’s in flight telephone calls in order to learn the internal positions of the U.S. government on matters of concern to them like Palestine peace talks and the Ukraine, respectively.
I’d tweeted to the AP’s State Department reporter, Matt Lee, earlier asking if he’d consider asking such a question at the weekly Monday press conference. His question (I presume it was Matt’s though the transcript doesn’t identify the reporter by name) only asked about the Israeli spying, but not the Russian. Here is how the transcript reads:
QUESTION: And one final on this. Has Secretary Kerry communicated these concerns to Prime Minister Netanyahu since this latest attack?
MS. PSAKI: Well, he spoke with him briefly yesterday morning, and their phone call was cut off. I think there was some communications issue. But he has raised the – our concern about civilian casualties in the past, and certainly that’s consistent but not this specific —
QUESTION:Did he raise the questions about Israeli spying, for lack of a better word, on his telephone calls?
MS. PSAKI:There’s just nothing more I have to read out from the call.
Here is the response I received to my own query from the State Department:
Here is the response given at State Department Daily Press Briefing on August 4, 2014 by Spokesperson Jen Psaki [a reference to the above passage]. Nothing more to add.
So when given a chance to deny the truth of the report, State punted.
I also found Psaki’s revelation that Kerry’s phone call with Netanyah was “cut off” by “some communications issue” to be tantalizing. Keep in mind that relations now between the U.S. and Israel are at about their lowest ebb since the first George Bush cut off aid in 1991. Israel had rejected a U.S.-UN brokered ceasefire prominently announced by Kerry about a week earlier and pursued the war killing several hundred more Palestinians in the interim.
One can imagine that the phone call between Kerry and Netanyahu can’t have been a happy one, since Kerry was clearly complaining about Israel killing Palestinian civilians. One may also imagine that Netanyahu hung up on Kerry in anger, though I haven’t been able to confirm this through my own sources.