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Israel’s interference in 2016 US election to be probed by Senators

June 6, 2019 at 3:28 pm

People follow results of the 2016 Presidential Elections at Time Square Center in New York, United States on November 9, 2016. [Volkan Furuncu/Anadolu Agency]

American lawmakers have summoned a British security consultant to probe Israel’s role in alleged Russian interference with the 2016 election, which has been the subject of a two-year long FBI investigation.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is seeking an interview with Walter Soriano, director of London-based security firm USG Security, to discuss what, if any, role Israel may have played in attempts to manipulate the 2016 election.

The committee, which oversees the work of the US Intelligence Community, sent a letter to Soriano for a voluntary, closed-door interview to discuss documents dating back to June 2015. The letter obtained by Politico, is said to be more than just a “fishing expedition”. The committee members are said to be keen on getting a deeper insight into the role other countries may have played in hacking US elections. It’s believed that they are interested in speaking with Soriano because of his connections to high profile people.

A source told Politico that the committee is “surprised by how connected he seems to several people of interest.” They are also interesting in questioning Soriano over communications with Israeli private intelligence firms.

READ: Time to stop the external manipulation of ‘what Palestinians want’ 

Up till now US officials have been reluctant to cast their eyes in the direction of Israel in any probe related to interference by a foreign country. While “Russiagate”, as it’s known, has dominated the Trump presidency, Israel is often cited as a more obvious case of meddling by a foreign country.

Renowned American intellectual Noam Chomsky pointed this out earlier this year in an interview. “Israeli intervention in US elections vastly overwhelms anything the Russians may have done,” said the veteran author pointing to Benjamin Netanyahu’s attempt to humiliate former President Barack Obama by speaking to Congress, with overwhelming applause, that was noted for the 26 standing ovations during a 39 minute speech.

Controversial pro-Israel lobby, AIPAC, which many say should be registered as a foreign-agent in Capitol Hill, has been caught on tape boasting of its influence in Washington.

While it would be an extremely unlikely turn of event to see Israel come under any serious investigation by the committee, the role of Israeli firms in meddling in elections across the globe has become a serious concern. Last month elections in several African, Asian and Latin American countries were targeted by a disinformation campaign. Social media giant, Facebook traced these accounts to Archimedes Group, a private company based near Tel Aviv.

Facebook announced that it had removed 265 Facebook and Instagram accounts with a combined following of 2.8 million users for engaging in “coordinated inauthentic behaviour”. The Israeli group’s activities were focused on Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Angola, Niger and Tunisia along with some activity in Latin America and Southeast Asia.

The online world has become a major battle ground for Israel. Last month it launched a massive recruitment drive to support the country’s online propaganda campaign. The new initiative, which would see the government funding pro-Israel groups overseas, was unveiled by Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, a government arm set up to combat the global rise of pro-Palestinian activism and Israel’s poor global image.