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U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks during a joint press conference with Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon on Thursday, May 15, 2014 in Tel Aviv. (MANDEL NGAN/ASSOCIATED PRESS)
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks during a joint press conference with Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon on Thursday, May 15, 2014 in Tel Aviv. (MANDEL NGAN/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Hagel says he is not aware of Israel spying on U.S. Add to ...

U.S. Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel said on Thursday he was unaware of any truth to a media report that Israel has been spying on the United States.

Asked during a press conference in Tel Aviv about a Newsweek magazine story quoting unnamed U.S. officials as saying Israel was conducting major spying operations against the United States, Hagel said: “I have heard of that report. I’m not aware of any facts that would substantiate the report.”

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Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon, who responded to the espionage question in English, said: “As former head of [Israeli military] intelligence, I wasn’t allowed to spy in the United States whatsoever. And as defence minister I don’t allow to spy in the United States whatsoever.”

Israeli officials had reacted furiously to the Newsweek story, with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman calling it a “malicious calumny”.

Yaalon, who has this year criticized U.S. foreign policy-making, and Hagel both affirmed the strong bond between Israel and the United States, and Hagel noted the record levels of U.S. aid to Israel.

The U.S. defence chief is on a three-day visit to Israel, where he was due to discuss a host of issues, from Iran to Syria to the failed Palestinian peace process.

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