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Liberman Says US Spying Charges 'Malicious'

Israel forcefully rejects accusations in Newsweek report that it 'continues to cross the line on espionage' against the US.
By Gil Ronen and AFP
First Publish: 5/7/2014, 1:22 PM

Avigdor Liberman
Avigdor Liberman
Flash 90

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman rejected out of hand on Wednesday the anonymous allegations reported by Newsweek, that Israel is engaged in “unrivaled and unseemly” espionage against the US in matters relating to industrial and technical secrets.

Liberman told IDF Radio that the charges are “made up out of whole cloth” and that Israel rejects them out of hand. “I do not know who stands behind the report,” he said, but hinted that it may be part of an effort to torpedo legislation that would lower visa restrictions on Israeli citizens entering the US.

“I can say that in the last year, we began the discussions with the US about doing away with the visas,” he elaborated. “We conducted negotiations with all of the representatives and with the Homeland Security Office, there were good and productive discussions. I hope we reach a situation in which we cancel visas, but there are elements that oppose this and it is too bad that it is being done in this way.”

"We're talking about lies and falsehood, simply libel which is baseless and unfounded," Liberman stressed. "I am sorry that there are apparently anonymous elements in the United States who are simply trying to maliciously spread false accusations." The minister said Israel had "learned its lesson" from the case of Jonathan Pollard, a US naval analyst who was arrested in Washington in 1985 and sentenced to life in jail for spying on the United States for Israel.

He insisted  Israel was not involved in any form of espionage against the United States, direct or indirect.

Newsweek said that in the course of classified briefings on the legislation for lowering visa restrictions, testimony was heard alleging that Jerusalem’s “efforts to steal U.S. secrets under the cover of trade missions and joint defense technology contracts” have “crossed red lines.”

“Israel’s espionage activities in America are unrivaled and unseemly, counterspies have told members of the House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs committees,” the magazine reported, “going far beyond activities by other close allies, such as Germany, France, the U.K. and Japan.” It quoted congressional staffers who called the testimony 'very sobering…alarming…even terrifying' and 'damaging.'

“No other country close to the United States continues to cross the line on espionage like the Israelis do,” said a former congressional staffer who reportedly attended one of the classified briefings by officials from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the State Department, the FBI and the National Counterintelligence Directorate. The intelligence agencies didn’t go into specifics, the former aide said, but cited “industrial espionage—folks coming over here on trade missions or with Israeli companies working in collaboration with American companies, [or] intelligence operatives being run directly by the government, which I assume meant out of the [Israeli] Embassy.”