The secrecy follies of the Israeli national security state continue with a new example of superfluous opacity. In the past few days, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs hosted a conference to highlight Israeli counter-terror strategies and their relevance to U.S. policy.
Among the guests JINSA promoted was police chief, William Bratton. But JINSA was hiding its light under a bushel as far as Israel was concerned. The most mysterious, important guest was the Shin Bet’s Washington DC liaison, Avi Arieli. That’s because the cult of secrecy requires that the identities of all intelligence agents except for the Shabak and Mossad chiefs be held in absolute secrecy.
Readers will know that I strongly disagree with this policy and regularly violate it by publishing such names when I discover them. I published Arieli’s names six years ago when he was the head of the Jewish terror unit. A settler he arrested was so exercised that he himself exposed Arieli’s name and picture.
But you wouldn’t know that by reading the otherwise inestimable Amir Oren’s article in today’s Haaretz in which he writes that Arieli’s identity had been revealed for the first time, and with the approval of the Shabak. First, I’d already identified him. And second, the Shabak hadn’t approved his exposure, since shortly thereafter, the Hebrew and the English versions of the article were disappeared by the military censor. If Shabak did approve publication, the censor must not have received “the memo.”
The nominal reason offered for prohibiting the exposure of agents’ identities is to protect them from harm. From attack by those seeking revenge against Israel, and to maintain their covert identities to enable then to continue working in the field.
It seems to have escaped the censor that the U.S has no such secrecy policy, yet we manage to protect the cover and safety of our covert agents quite well.
It’s also ironic that the Shabak would be sending this particular representative to promote Israeli security strategies since his unit, which is charged with both preventing Jewish terror attacks and with hunting down those who follow commit them, has done such a lousy job of it. It was under Arieli’s watch that Mohammed Abu Khdeir and the Dawabsheh family were murdered by settler terrorists. It’s taken years to finely bring the Abu Khdeir killers to justice. The Shabak has also made a mess of the Dawabsheh investigation. No one has yet been tried (though several suspects have been arrested) for those killings, which happened over a year ago.
Arieli’s appointment to DC has serious significance fur his career trajectory. One of the last officials to be posted to DC, Yoram Cohen, eventually became Shabak chief himself. That could mean that Arieli is destined for a similar promotion when the next director is chosen.