Israel Successfully Hacked ISIS Computers; Trump Leaked It to the Russians, NYT Reports

Israeli cyber unit managed to penetrate Islamic State bombmakers' cell in Syria; intel led to laptop flight ban

U.S. President Donald Trump looks at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., Feb. 15, 2017.
Andrew Harrer, Bloomberg

The source of the classified intelligence that U.S. President Donald Trump shared with Russian officials in May was information Israel obtained after hacking computers belonging to ISIS, the New York Times reported Monday.

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According to the Times, which cited a U.S. official, Israeli "cyberoperators" managed to penetrate an ISIS cell of bombmakers based in Syria a number of months ago.

According to the report, the information was so good that it allowed the United States to learn that the terror cell was working on explosives that could fool airport security by passing as a laptop battery.

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According to the report, the information helped support a ban since March on carrying electronics such as laptops on incoming flights from number of predominantly Muslim countries to the United States and Britain.

According to a May article in the New York Times, the source of the classified intelligence was Israel. The report cited a current U.S. official and a former one.

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The intelligence was shared at a meeting with 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. The revelation that Trump shared sensitive intelligence with Russia raises the possibility that the information could be subsequently leaked to Iran.

The New York Times report said Israeli officials refused to confirm that Israel was the source of the information. But BuzzFeed News quoted two Israeli intelligence officials as saying that Israel had shared information with the United States on an Islamic State plan to sneak explosive-laden laptops onto airplanes. The New York Times' report that the U.S. president had shared Israeli intelligence with Russia was Israel's "worst fears confirmed," one of the officers was quoted as saying.

Cooperation between Israeli and U.S. intelligence agencies has intensified over the past two decades, with most of the joint operations directed, according to reports, against Iran, but also targeting Hezbollah and Hamas. An official agreement in 2008 for comprehensive cooperation, including the disclosure of sources and methods, reportedly led to impressive results, including the disruption of the Iranian nuclear program.

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, which had been discussed in closed forums, 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 the White House and the National Security Council following Trump's inauguration on January 20.

Amir Tibon and Reuters contributed to this report.