FM threatens suit against AP over access report

AP, 'IsraelDefense' website alleged Lieberman not given access to secret military material when he served under Olmert.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman 311 (R) (photo credit: Ronen Zvulun / Reuters)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman 311 (R)
(photo credit: Ronen Zvulun / Reuters)
Foreign Ministry Avigdor Lieberman on Sunday threatened a libel suit against two media outlets, The Associated Press and the website of IsraelDefense military magazine.
The media outlets alleged that Lieberman was not given access to secret military material, including information regarding Iran, when he served as the minister for strategic affairs from 2006-2008.
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Both AP and IsraelDefense declined to comment on the threat or their articles.
As of press time they had not responded to Lieberman’s request for an apology.
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert, under whom Lieberman served as strategic minister, came to the current foreign minister’s defense on Sunday.
Olmert wrote a letter to the Foreign Ministry denying the AP story.
Olmert wrote that during Lieberman’s service he instructed all branches of the intelligence services to work with him, meet with him and to provide him with whatever information he needed to perform his duties, including material of a highly sensitive nature.
Olmert added that Lieberman had performed his job in the best and most responsible manner.
No restrictions were issued on the kind of intelligence information that could be provided to Lieberman, nor did any one suggest that material be held back from him, Olmert said.
He was a full partner in all the discussions that dealt with strategic matters, he said.
Over the weekend, AP quoted a senior official, who claimed that sensitive intelligence information was withheld from Lieberman. In its article AP noted that it was rare to limit intelligence access from a minister in that position. Lieberman immigrated to Israel from a former Soviet bloc country, it noted, and speculated that this might have created a problem. The article also said that it did not know if Lieberman’s security clearance had been upgraded when he became foreign minister.
The story was circulated through AP to US and Israeli media outlets.
The website of IsraelDefense noted more simply that Lieberman lacked the same clearance given to that of the current Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon.
On Sunday, AP wrote a story in which Olmert’s spokesman as well as Lieberman’s denied the charges.