U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel met with his Israeli counterpart, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Thursday in Tel Aviv, where the two distanced themselves from a recent report alleging Israel has been aggressively spying on the United States.
At Tel Aviv the two discussed their bilateral defence relationship and held a joint press conference, reports the Jerusalem Post.
During the press conference, Hagel said he was unaware of any truth to a Newsweek report that claimed Israel has been spying on the U.S. Last week’s report to that effect cited unnamed American Intelligence officials accusing Israel of major spying activity against the Americans.
“I have heard of that report. I’m not aware of any facts that would substantiate the report,” Hagel said.
Ya’alon also spoke about the issue, again categorically denying the allegations: “As former head of Military Intelligence, I wasn’t allowed to spy in the United States whatsoever. And as Defense Minister, I don’t allow anyone to spy in the United States whatsoever.”
Israeli officials have dismissed the reports, with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman calling the accusations a “vicious calumny.”
The reports in Newsweek included far-fetched claims that Secret Service agents caught an Israeli “agent” in an air duct in the process of bugging then-Vice President Al Gore’s hotel room in 1998. It turns out that the hotel’s “air ducts” are actually pipes just a few centimeters in diameter.
Former Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin dismissed the allegations that appeared in the Newsweek report, telling Israel’s Channel 2 Saturday that they were baseless.
“Israel is certainly not spying in the United States,” Yadlin said. “This is a former Military Intelligence head telling you this. If you bring all of the past Military Intelligence chiefs from the past 29 years, since [the arrest of Jonathan] Pollard, or the past heads of the Mossad, they will tell you the same,” Yadlin stated.
Yadlin said he expects the heads of the US intelligence community to address the American public in response to the Newsweek report and to “either say that this is baseless, or present facts.”