An Israeli intelligence operation that penetrated Islamic State was the source of classified information leaked by U.S. President Donald Trump to Russian officials, according to a report in The New York Times on Monday.
The highly sensitive intelligence obtained by the Israelis through cyberwarfare was said to have enabled U.S. officials to understand the mechanisms by which the terrorist organization could detonate bombs in laptops to blow up airliners.
Previous reports said that the plot was exposed by an Israeli agent who had infiltrated Islamic State.
According to the new report, which cited two U.S. officials familiar with the story, Israeli cyber experts discovered that IS operatives in Syria were developing explosive devices designed to resemble laptop batteries, thus making it possible for them to pass through airport screening undetected.
“The intelligence was so exquisite that it enabled the United States to understand how the weapons could be detonated,” according to the American officials quoted.
Israeli officials were reportedly infuriated by the unilateral disclosures, and there were media reports at the time that it might have endangered the life of an Israeli agent. However, Israeli ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer has insisted that Israel continues to have full confidence in sharing its intelligence with the U.S.
The Trump administration has maintained that there was nothing improper in sharing the information with Russian foreign minister Sergey V. Lavrov last month, in such cases a routine procedure.
Apparently, the intelligence led to a ban imposed earlier this year on taking laptop computers on U.S.-bound flights from ten airports in Muslim countries.
Mr. Trump has not acknowledged that Israel was in fact the source of the information. During his visit to Israel last May, though, as he entered a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Trump said “I never said the word Israel” in his meeting with the Russians, which some have taken as confirmation that the source was Israeli.