The source of the classified intelligence that US President Donald Trump controversially shared with Russian officials in May was information obtained by Israel after a rare successful hack of computers belonging to Da’ish, the New York Times (NYT) reported on Monday.
According to the NYT, which cited a US official, Israeli “cyber-operators” managed to penetrate an ISIS bomb-making cell based in Syria some months ago.
The report says the information was so good that it allowed the US to learn that the terror cell was working on explosives that would go undetected by airport security when disguised as laptop batteries. The information provided the basis of the ban on carrying electronics such as laptops on originating in a number of predominantly Muslim countries which arrive in the US and Britain.
According to a May article in the NYT, the source of the classified intelligence was Israel. That report cited a current US official and a former one.
The intelligence was shared during a meeting between Trump, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak. The unnamed officials said Israel had previously urged the United States to be cautious with the information because they feared the Russian would leak it to countries that are not friendly with Israel.
The report said Israeli officials refused to confirm that Israel was the source of the information. But BuzzFeed News has since quoted two Israeli intelligence officials as saying that the information shared by Israel referred to a Da’ish plan to sneak explosive-laden laptops onto airplanes.
The NYT report also quoted an American officer as saying that said that the US president sharing Israeli intelligence with Russia was Israel’s “worst fears confirmed”.
Meanwhile, Haaretz reports that cooperation between Israeli and US intelligence agencies has intensified over the past two decades, with most of the joint operations directed at Iran, but also targeting Hezbollah and Hamas.
In January, it was reported that Israeli intelligence officials were concerned that the exposure of classified information to their American counterparts in the Trump administration could lead to it being leaked to Russia and onward to Iran.
The intelligence concerns, according to Haaretz, had been discussed in closed forums, and were based on suspicions of ties between Trump, or his associates, and the government of Vladimir Putin in Moscow.
According to the January report, American officials under President Barack Obama implied that Israel should “be careful” when transferring intelligence information to Trump’s White House and the National Security Council.