Did the Obama Administration’s Abuse of Foreign Intelligence start before Trump?

One clue: The Russia story is a replay of how the former White House smeared pro-Israel activists in the lead-up to the Iran Deal

Tablet Magazine, by  Lee Smith, April 5, 2017:

The accusation that the Obama administration used information gleaned from classified foreign surveillance to smear and blackmail its political opponents at home has gained new traction in recent days, after reports that former National Security Adviser Susan Rice may have been rifling through classified transcripts for over a year that could have included information about Donald Trump and his associates. While using resources that are supposed to keep Americans safe from terrorism for other purposes may be a dereliction of duty, it is no more of a crime than spending all day on Twitter instead of doing your job. The crime here would be if she leaked the names of U.S. citizens to reporters. In the end, the seriousness of the accusation against Rice and other former administration officials who will be caught up in the “unmasking” scandal will rise or fall based on whether or not Donald Trump was actively engaged in a conspiracy to turn over the keys of the White House to the Kremlin. For true believers in the Trump-Kremlin conspiracy theories, the Obama “spying and lying” scandal isn’t a scandal at all; just public officials taking prudent steps to guard against an imminent threat to the republic.

But what if Donald Trump wasn’t the first or only target of an Obama White House campaign of spying and illegal leaks directed at domestic political opponents?

In a December 29, 2015 article, The Wall Street Journal described how the Obama administration had conducted surveillance on Israeli officials to understand how Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials, like Ambassador Ron Dermer, intended to fight the Iran Deal. The Journal reported that the targeting “also swept up the contents of some of their private conversations with U.S. lawmakers and American-Jewish groups.”

Despite this reporting, it seemed inconceivable at the time that—given myriad legal, ethical, political, and historical concerns, as well as strict National Security Agency protocols that protect the identity of American names caught in intercepts—the Obama White House would have actually spied on American citizens. In a December 31, 2016, Tablet article on the controversy, “Why the White House Wanted Congress to Think It Was Being Spied on By the NSA,” I argued that the Obama administration had merely used the appearance of spying on American lawmakers to corner opponents of the Iran Deal. Spying on U.S. citizens would be a clear abuse of the foreign-intelligence surveillance system. It would be a felony offense to leak the names of U.S. citizens to the press.

Increasingly, I believe that my conclusion in that piece was wrong. I believe the spying was real and that it was done not in an effort to keep the country safe from threats—but in order to help the White House fight their domestic political opponents.

“At some point, the administration weaponized the NSA’s legitimate monitoring of communications of foreign officials to stay one step ahead of domestic political opponents,” says a pro-Israel political operative who was deeply involved in the day-to-day fight over the Iran Deal. “The NSA’s collections of foreigners became a means of gathering real-time intelligence on Americans engaged in perfectly legitimate political activism—activism, due to the nature of the issue, that naturally involved conversations with foreigners. We began to notice the White House was responding immediately, sometimes within 24 hours, to specific conversations we were having. At first, we thought it was a coincidence being amplified by our own paranoia. After a while, it simply became our working assumption that we were being spied on.”

This is what systematic abuse of foreign-intelligence collection for domestic political purposes looks like: Intelligence collected on Americans, lawmakers, and figures in the pro-Israel community was fed back to the Obama White House as part of its political operations. The administration got the drop on its opponents by using classified information, which it then used to draw up its own game plan to block and freeze those on the other side. And—with the help of certain journalists whose stories (and thus careers) depend on high-level access—terrorize them.

Once you understand how this may have worked, it becomes easier to comprehend why and how we keep being fed daily treats of Trump’s nefarious Russia ties. The issue this time isn’t Israel, but Russia, yet the basic contours may very well be the same.

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Two inquiries now underway on Capitol Hill, conducted by the Senate intelligence committee and the House intelligence committee, may discover the extent to which Obama administration officials unmasked the identities of Trump team members caught in foreign-intelligence intercepts. What we know so far is that Obama administration officials unmasked the identity of one Trump team member, Michael Flynn, and leaked his name to the Washington Post’s David Ignatius.

“According to a senior U.S. government official,” Ignatius wrote in his Jan. 12 column, “Flynn phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on Dec. 29, the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian officials as well as other measures in retaliation for the hacking. What did Flynn say, and did it undercut the U.S. sanctions?”

Nothing, the Times and the Post later reported. But exposing Flynn’s name in the intercept for political purposes was an abuse of the national-security apparatus, and leaking it to the press is a crime.

This is familiar territory. In spying on the representatives of the American people and members of the pro-Israel community, the Obama administration learned how far it could go in manipulating the foreign-intelligence surveillance apparatus for its own domestic political advantage. In both instances, the ostensible targets—Israel and Russia—were simply instruments used to go after the real targets at home.

In order to spy on U.S. congressmen before the Iran Deal vote, the Obama administration exploited a loophole, which is described in the original Journal article. The U.S. intelligence community is supposed to keep tabs on foreign officials, even those representing allies. Hence, everyone in Washington knows that Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer is under surveillance. But it’s different for his American interlocutors, especially U.S. lawmakers, whose identities are, according to NSA protocol, supposed to be, at the very least, redacted. But the standard for collecting and disseminating “intercepted communications involving U.S. lawmakers” is much less strict if it is swept up through “foreign-foreign” intercepts, for instance between a foreign ambassador and his capital. Washington, i.e. the seat of the American government, is where foreign ambassadors are supposed to meet with American officials. The Obama administration turned an ancient diplomatic convention inside out—foreign ambassadors were so dangerous that meeting them signaled betrayal of your own country.

During the long and contentious lead-up to the Iran Deal the Israeli ambassador was regularly briefing senior officials in Jerusalem, including the prime minister, about the situation, including his meetings with American lawmakers and Jewish community leaders. The Obama administration would be less interested in what the Israelis were doing than in the actions of those who actually had the ability to block the deal—namely, Senate and House members. The administration then fed this information to members of the press, who were happy to relay thinly veiled anti-Semitic conceits by accusing deal opponents of dual loyalty and being in the pay of foreign interests.

It didn’t take much imagination for members of Congress to imagine their names being inserted in the Iran deal echo chamber’s boilerplate—that they were beholden to “donors” and “foreign lobbies.” What would happen if the White House leaked your phone call with the Israeli ambassador to a friendly reporter, and you were then profiled as betraying the interests of your constituents and the security of your nation to a foreign power? What if the fact of your phone call appeared under the byline of a famous columnist friendly to the Obama administration, say, in a major national publication?

To make its case for the Iran Deal, the Obama administration redefined America’s pro-Israel community as agents of Israel. They did something similar with Trump and the Russians—whereby every Russian with money was defined as an agent of the state. Where the Israeli ambassador once was poison, now the Russian ambassador is the kiss of death—a phone call with him led to Flynn’s departure from the White House and a meeting with him landed Attorney General Jeff Sessions in hot water.

Did Trump really have dealings with FSB officers? Thanks to the administration’s whisper campaigns, the facts don’t matter; that kind of contact is no longer needed to justify surveillance, whose spoils could then be weaponized and leaked. There are oligarchs who live in Trump Tower, and they all know Putin—ergo, talking to them is tantamount to dealing with the Russian state.

Yet there is one key difference between the two information operations that abused the foreign-intelligence surveillance apparatus for political purposes. The campaign to sell the Iran deal was waged while the Obama administration was in office. The campaign to tie down Trump with the false Russia narrative was put together as the Obama team was on its way out.

The intelligence gathered from Iran Deal surveillance was shared with the fewest people possible inside the administration. It was leaked to only a few top-shelf reporters, like the authors of The Wall Street Journal article, who showed how the administration exploited a loophole to spy on Congress. Congressmen and their staffs certainly noticed, as did the Jewish organizations that were being spied on. But the campaign was mostly conducted sotto voce, through whispers and leaks that made it clear what the price of opposition might be.

The reason the prior abuse of the foreign-intelligence surveillance apparatus is clear only now is because the Russia campaign has illuminated it. As The New York Times reported last month, the administration distributed the intelligence gathered on the Trump transition team widely throughout government agencies, after it had changed the rules on distributing intercepted communications. The point of distributing the information so widely was to “preserve it,” the administration and its friends in the press explained—“preserve” being a euphemism for “leak.” The Obama team seems not to have understood that in proliferating that material they have exposed themselves to risk, by creating a potential criminal trail that may expose systematic abuse of foreign-intelligence collection.

Obama Admin Loyalists, Government Insiders Sabotage Trump White House

Former admin planted series of landmines to subvert Trump team

Washington Free Beacon, by Adam  Kredo, March 22, 2017:

The Obama administration worked in its final weeks in office to undermine the incoming Trump White and continues to do so, according to multiple sources both in and out of the White House.

Behind the effort, these sources say, are senior government officials who previously worked under President Obama and remain loyal to his agenda. These individuals leak negative information about the Trump White House and its senior staff to a network of former Obama administration officials who then plant this information in key media outlets including the Washington Post and New York Times.

Meanwhile, holdovers from the Obama administration are working to undermine the Trump administration’s agenda through efforts to alter official communications, a number of administration officials confirmed in conversations with the Washington Free Beacon.

Multiple sources expressed concern over what they described as an unprecedented effort by the former administration to subvert President Donald Trump’s team. These sources would only speak on background because they were not officially authorized to publicly discuss the situation, which is said to have fostered a level of discomfort and distrust in the West Wing.

The Free Beacon first reported on several portions of this effort earlier this year, including separate campaigns to undermine current CIA Director Mike Pompeo and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, both of whom were subjected to leaks aimed at undermining their credibility.

“We have members of the former administration at the highest levels who through their actions after January 20 have demonstrated their refusal to recognize the results of the general election,” one senior administration official told the Free Beacon. “They have pursued, organized, and managed a comprehensive subversion of the new administration.”

In one instance, Trump administration officials found evidence that the administration’s executive order banning travel from certain Muslim-majority nations had been selectively altered to bring it more in line with Obama-era talking points.

Several hours before the orders were set to be signed by Trump, officials noticed that language concerning “radical Islamic terrorism” had been stripped from the order and replaced with Obama-era language about countering violent extremism.

West Wing staffers quickly scrambled to rewrite the order to bring it back in line with Trump’s rhetoric, sources told the Free Beacon. The alteration of these directives is said to have spooked some senior officials working on the issue.

A series of targeted leaks also has fostered concerns that Obama administration holdovers are seeking to handicap the new administration.

Several weeks before his resignation, former national security adviser Flynn requested staff assemble an in-house phonebook that included contact information for senior White House staff. Before Flynn signed off on the effort, the phonebook was leaked to the press.

Additionally, the previous administration permitted staff to accrue substantial amounts of vacation time in its last year in office. As soon as team Trump entered the White House, it was obligated to pay out all of these hours. White House sources say the cost was in the millions of dollars.

The payout prevented the Trump White House from hiring key staff in its opening days due to insufficient funds, according to those familiar with the situation. Flynn, for instance, was able to hire only 22 people to work on the White House National Security Council, which topped around 420 staffers under Obama.

“They put landmines everywhere,” according to one senior administration official.

Outside of the White House, meanwhile, a team of former Obama administration officials is working to subvert Trump’s agenda.

Former Obama administration officials such as Ben Rhodes, the architect of Obama’s pro-Iran press operation, and Colin Kahl, a senior national security adviser to former Vice President Joe Biden, have engaged in public efforts to “purge” the current White House of officials they disagree with.

Earlier this month, Kahl admitted on Twitter that he is seeking to provoke the firings of Trump’s handpicked team “in the West Wing,” including senior advisers Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, and Sebastian Gorka, and NSC leaders Michael Anton and KT McFarland.

As part of this effort, Kahl, Rhodes, and others have leaked damaging stories about these officials to allies in the media.

The latest target, Gorka, has been falsely accused of being a Nazi sympathizer and an Islamophobe. The campaign against Flynn unfolded in a similar manner and sources who spoke to the Free Beacon about the matter speculated that these leaks will continue.

“They have a network of journalists for whom they have served as sources and they have fed stuff to these journalists,” one senior U.S. official told the Free Beacon. “That’s what pretty obviously is going on. I’ve never seen this happen before. I’ve never heard of it happening throughout history.”

Putting the current White House in a permanent state of defense is a key objective of this strategy, according to one senior Republican foreign policy operative who is close to the White House.

“Part of this campaign, of course, was the media operation of selective leaks, many of which were illegal and directly targeted the staff and officials of the incoming Trump administration,” the source said.

This targeted media campaign is similar to the method used by Rhodes and others to push the Iran nuclear deal.

“You can tell what’s clearly going on because many of the same media outlets who formed crucial parts of Ben Rhodes’ Iran Deal ‘echo chamber’ are springing to launch coordinated attacks on Sebastian Gorka today,” said one longtime political consultant who is close to the White House NSC. “The way it works is, one highly partisan journalist goes out on a limb in dishonestly characterizing the target. That dishonest story is used to build on the next, in which the original lie is taken as fact, and then repeated in an echo chamber until it becomes conventional wisdom.”

Sebastian Gorka Defends Trump’s National Security Actions

Sebastian Gorka, a deputy assistant to President Donald Trump, defended the president’s national security decisions Wednesday on CNN.

Host Jake Tapper asked Gorka what to make of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s statement earlier in the day to Iran that the country is being “put on notice.”

“Well, it’s a very simple signal: there’s a new sheriff in town,” Gorka said. “His name is Donald J. Trump, and we are not going to follow the policies of the prior administration, which really facilitated Iran in terms of getting more muscular, releasing those billions of dollars, and also bringing the JCPOA agreement, which also was disastrous in terms of our allies and security of the region.”

“So it’s sending a very simple message: this is a new dawn, a new day for relations with Iran.”

Tapper tried to ask Gorka if Iran would be emboldened to go ahead and produce nuclear weapons if Trump withdraws from the Iran nuclear deal.

“This is the great irony that people talk about how an action here in America in the White House or in the Congress will suddenly change the aggressive nature of Iran,” Gorka said. “This is a nation that is already going up to our naval vessels, is harassing our naval vessels, our friends’ vessels in the Red Sea, is firing upon Saudi ships.”

When Tapper asked Gorka if the immigration ban by Trump was going to help the Islamic State, Gorka lambasted the assertion.

“I would say that any document signed or executed in the United States makes no difference to ISIS. ISIS believes you are an infidel, Jake, and you should be beheaded or convert to Islam,” Gorka responded. “Whether or not a president signs something or not is utterly irrelevant to that attitude.”

“The idea that what we do here, that they’re suddenly going to surrender or give up or recruit less is absurd,” Gorka continued. “They wish to have a global caliphate, Jake. That’s all that they wish to do.”

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Son of Muslim Brotherhood Official Visits White House

In this March 9, 2015 photo, Mohammed Soltan is pushed by his father Salah during a court appearance in Cairo, Egypt / AP

In this March 9, 2015 photo, Mohammed Soltan is pushed by his father Salah during a court appearance in Cairo, Egypt / AP

Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo, January 19, 2017:

The son of a Muslim Brotherhood official who was imprisoned in Egypt until mid-2015 visited the White House earlier this week, according to photos posted on social media.

Mohamed Soltan is an American citizen who served as the unofficial spokesperson for a Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated protest movement that sought to reinstate Mohamed Morsi following his ouster in 2013. Soltan visited the White House just days before President Barack Obama is set to vacate the presidential home.

Soltan, the son of a senior Muslim Brotherhood official Salah Soltan, was sentenced to life in prison by Egyptian authorities for his role backing the Muslim Brotherhood as it carried out deadly protests following Morsi’s ouster.

The younger Soltan was released from prison after a lengthy hunger strike and efforts by the Obama administration to secure his freedom.

screen-shot-2017-01-19-at-9-14-33-am-3

Soltan, who has been critical of the Muslim Brotherhood in the past and claims to not be an official member of the organization, thanked the Obama administration in comments accompanying the photo of him in the White House, which was posted on Facebook.

The Obama administration has come under fire in the past for hosting official members of the Muslim Brotherhood, which some lawmakers in Congress have sought to designate as a terrorist organization.

The Washington Free Beacon first reported in 2015 that the State Department had lied to reporters about a meeting it held with Muslim Brotherhood members.

One member of that delegation, a Muslim Brotherhood-aligned judge in Egypt, posed for a picture in which he held up the Islamic group’s four-finger Rabia symbol, according to his Facebook page.

Iran: U.S. Surrendered More Than $10 Billion in Gold, Cash, Assets

Hassan Rouhani / AP

Hassan Rouhani / AP

Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo, January 9, 2017:

The Obama administration has paid Iran more than $10 billion in gold, cash, and other assets since 2013, according to Iranian officials, who disclosed that the White House has been intentionally deflating the total amount paid to the Islamic Republic.

Senior Iranian officials late last week confirmed reports that the total amount of money paid to Iran over the past four years is in excess of $10 billion, a figure that runs counter to official estimates provided by the White House.

The latest disclosure by Iran, which comports with previous claims about the Obama administration obfuscating details about its cash transfers to Iran—including a $1.7 billion cash payment included in a ransom to free Americans—sheds further light on the White House’s back room dealings to bolster Iran’s economy and preserve the Iran nuclear agreement.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi confirmed last week a recent report in the Wall Street Journal detailing some $10 billion in cash and assets provided to Iran since 2013, when the administration was engaging in sensitive diplomacy with Tehran aimed at securing the nuclear deal.

Ghasemi disclosed that the $10 billion figure just scratches the surface of the total amount given to Iran by the United States over the past several years.

“I will not speak about the precise amount,” Ghasemi was quoted as saying in Persian language reports independently translated for the Washington Free Beacon.

The $10 billion figure is actually a “stingy” estimate, Ghasemi claimed, adding that a combination of cash, gold, and other assets was sent by Washington to Iran’s Central Bank and subsequently “spent.”

“This report is true but the value was higher,” Ghassemi was quoted as saying.

“After the Geneva conference and the resulting agreement, it was decided that $700 million dollars were to be dispensed per month” by the U.S., according to Ghassemi. “In addition to the cash funds which we received, we [also] received our deliveries in gold, bullion, and other things.”

Regional experts who spoke to the Free Beacon about these disclosures said that the $10 billion figure offered by the Obama administration should be viewed “as a conservative estimate for what Iran was paid to stay at the table and negotiate.”

“Iran does have incentives to overstate this figure,” Behnam Ben Taleblu, a research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Free Beacon. “But given the recent state-sponsored narrative in Iran about a Western and particularly American failing to offer sanctions relief, this reads much more as fact rather than another instance of disinformation from Tehran.”

It is likely Iran spent a portion of this money to fund its regional terror operations and military enterprise to bolster embattled Syrian President Bashar al Assad, Ben Taleblu said.

“Given the nature of some of this sanctions relief (through the provision of gold and unfrozen assets), this money likely underwrote some of the Islamic Republic’s more destabilizing regional activities,” he explained. “At the macro level, all of this continues to prove one larger point: The way the Iran deal was handled and the provision of sanctions relief during and after the talks that led to the nuclear accord continues to create problems for those interested in defending the integrity of the international financial system.”

One veteran foreign policy insider familiar with the administration’s outreach to Iran told the Free Beacon that the White House has a history of deflating these figures in order to obfuscate details about its contested diplomacy with the Islamic Republic.

“This is how it always happens when the Obama administration secretly sends money to Iran,” said the source, who would only speak on background when discussing the outgoing administration’s strategy. “They deny it until they’re caught, then they lowball it until they’re caught again, then they say it’s old news. In every single case where Iranian officials confirms these transfers while Obama officials denied them, it later turned out the Iranian officials were the ones telling the truth.”

Gertz: ‘America Is Extremely Vulnerable’ to Cyber Threats

iwarBY: Washington Free Beacon Staff
January 3, 2017

Washington Free Beacon senior editor Bill Gertz said that the United States is “extremely vulnerable” to cyber attacks during a radio interview with Sean Hannity on Tuesday evening. Gertz appeared on Hannity’s radio show to discuss his newly released book, iWar: War and Peace in the Information Age.

To begin the interview, Hannity asked Gertz what he thought of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s assertion that he did not receive hacked emails of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign from Russian sources.

“We’re going to have to wait to see what the [Obama] administration’s investigation of the Russian influence operation is,” Gertz responded.

Hannity then referenced his previous interview with Assange in which the WikiLeaks founder claimed to have hacked into NASA at the age of sixteen, prompting Gertz to explain how vulnerable the U.S. is to what he described as information attacks.

“America is extremely vulnerable, and I think that’s the bottom line of this book, iWar. We’re getting killed in the information space,” Gertz said.

Gertz defined the information space as twofold: one part encompasses the use of cyber and technical attacks and the other involves information and content.

In the second chapter of his book, Gertz details the sophistication of North Korean cyber attacks, including the 2014 Sony breach after the entertainment company released a comedic movie that made fun of the North Korean regime. Gertz described an interview with a North Korean defector who “issued a dire warning” that the American government needs to do something to “counterattack North Korean information warfare operations.”

Continuing on this point, Gertz asserted that the CIA needs “dire reform.” Under the leadership of current CIA Director John Brennan, the organization, Gertz noted, has focused too heavily on drone strikes instead of clandestine information operations.

Hannity then played a brief snippet of his interview with Assange in which he repeatedly denied that the Russian government was behind the leaked Clinton and DNC emails during the 2016 election. Hannity asked Gertz what he thought of Assange’s adamant denials of receiving the hacked emails from Russian sources.

“On Assange I think it’s clear until he reveals where he obtained the information that he leaked, then I think the onus is going to be on him,” Gertz said. “And if he doesn’t reveal it, that’s going to be a problem.”

Later discussing America’s relationship with Russia and the country’s president, Vladimir Putin, Gertz declared that “we are definitely entering a new Cold War.” Gertz explained that in his new book he lays out Putin’s strategy to “reestablish the Soviet Union without communism.”

Hannity then asked Gertz what the new Trump administration can do to confront Iran after what he described as President Obama’s capitulation to Tehran with the Iran nuclear deal and the $1.7 billion payment early last year to the Iranian regime to free American hostages.

“We’ve got to use an information warfare campaign against Iran,” Gertz said, adding that the Obama administration missed a golden opportunity to do so during the Green Revolution in Iran in 2009.

Gertz suggested that the American government could establish a new institution to combat foreign enemies and administrations by using information and political warfare to spread American messages of freedom and democracy.

iWar can be purchased today in print or as an e-book from Amazon and a variety of other booksellers. It can be downloaded as an audiobook through iTunes and Audible.

Gertz is the author of seven books, including the New York Times best-selling Betrayal: How the Clinton Administration Undermined American Security.

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Bill Gertz’s ‘iWar’ Now Available as Audio Book

The new book by Free Beacon Senior Editor Bill Gertz, iWar: War and Peace in the Information Age, is now available in print and as an audio book.

Gertz is a long-time national security correspondent and columnist for the Free Beacon and Washington Times. He is the author of seven books, including the New York Times best-selling Betrayal: How the Clinton Administration Undermined American Security.

Gertz published iWar to explain the digital battle being waged between the United States and foreign adversaries like Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran.

A five-minute excerpt of the audio book is embedded below.

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The following is an excerpt from the book

Chinese Information Warfare: The Panda That Eats, Shoots, and Leaves

Congress to Freeze State Department Funds Until U.S. Embassy Moves to Jerusalem

Orthodox Jewish people at the Western Wall, Jerusalem / AP

Orthodox Jewish people at the Western Wall, Jerusalem / AP

Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo, January 3, 2017:

A delegation of Republican senators is moving forward with an effort to freeze some funding to the State Department until the U.S. embassy in Israel is formally moved to Jerusalem, according to new legislation.

The legislation comes as the Obama administration continues to face criticism over its behind-the-scenes effort to forward a United Nations resolution condemning Israel.

The Obama administration, like previous administrations, does not formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city and has worked to stymie efforts to move the U.S. embassy there.

While Congress first approved legislation to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem in 1995, the new bill threatens to cut State Department funding until the relocation is complete.

The effort is being spearheaded by Sens. Ted Cruz (R., Texas), Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), and Dean Heller (R., Nev.), all of whom support efforts by the incoming Trump administration to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem after years of debate.

“Jerusalem is the eternal and undivided capital of Israel,” Cruz said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the Obama administration’s vendetta against the Jewish state has been so vicious that to even utter this simple truth—let alone the reality that Jerusalem is the appropriate venue for the American embassy in Israel—is shocking in some circles.”

“But it is finally time to cut through the double-speak and broken promises and do what Congress said we should do in 1995: formally move our embassy to the capital of our great ally Israel,” Cruz said.

The legislation orders the White House to identify Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which the Obama administration has refused to do. The bill will freeze a significant portion of the State Department’s funding until it completes the relocation.

In the past, the Obama White House has been caught scrubbing captions on official photographs that labeled Jerusalem as part of Israel. The administration also was entangled in a Supreme Court case when it refused to permit an American family to list its child’s birthplace as “Jerusalem, Israel.”

Heller said the legislation could help repair America’s relationship with Israel, which has become strained under the Obama administration.

“For years, I’ve advocated for America’s need to reaffirm its support for one of our nation’s strongest allies by recognizing Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel,” Heller said in a statement. “It honors an important promise America made more than two decades ago but has yet to fulfill. While administrations come and go, the lasting strength of our partnership with one of our strongest allies in the Middle East continues to endure.”

Rubio also championed the bill in a statement, saying it will finally close loopholes that have permitted the Obama administration to ignore congressional calls to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s official capital.

“Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish state of Israel, and that’s where America’s embassy belongs,” Rubio said. “It’s time for Congress and the president-elect to eliminate the loophole that has allowed presidents in both parties to ignore U.S. law and delay our embassy’s rightful relocation to Jerusalem for over two decades.”