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Israel Atomic Energy Commission Chief’s Laptop Stolen…Twice!

shaul horev

Dr. Shaul Horev, Israel Atomic Energy Commission chair (Koko)UPDATE

UPDATE: Within an hour of publication of this post, the censor decided to remove censorship.  Yediot is now reporting Horev’s identity as part of this crime.  But the Yediot story has considerably softened the offenses involved and claims there was no computer theft and the documents stolen were not classified.  This contradicts some of the earlier reporting that was published under censorship.  Yediot also notes there was video surveillance of Horev’s home which didn’t deter the thieves, and which further indicates this was likely a sophisticated crime and not a run of the mill burglary.

Shaul Horev (Hebrew), director of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission has had his laptop stolen (Hebrew). This is the second time in three months a sensitive piece of electronic gear was stolen from the home of a senior official. Last December, it was a cell phone from the home of Brig. Gen. (res.) Yoav Galant.

It’s also the second time in a number of years Horev’s laptop was stolen.  The thieves this time also stole his wallet and other documents.  Haaretz reports (Hebrew, keep in mind the report is under censorship) about this theft and the last one:

It appears the burglars were seeking something specific which they succeeded in [finding and] taking…Police reported the home did not appear ransacked as would be expected in a criminal break-in.  It also appears this wasn’t the first time the home of this government worker was broken into.  Also in the previous break-in a computer was stolen about which even now it’s not known whether it was merely for his personal business or included data he used in his work.

Horev is a man who lives in the shadows.  No one knows much about him.  Here is a profile published about him last month which reveals his military past, during which he rose to deputy commander of the Israeli navy.  One of his roles as IAEC chair is to advise the PM about Iran’s nuclear capacity.  As such, the IAEC provides projections for Mossad (in nuclear-related matters) and receives all information generated by Mossad intelligence efforts concerning Iran. Horev was known to be in the midst of conducting high-level security briefings for prominent Israeli politicians.

Naturally, it’s quite embarrassing for a senior Israeli government official, privy to the nation’s most protected nuclear secrets, to have his own computer stolen. There’s no telling where the computer has gone, who now has access to the material it contained, and what secrets have been compromised.

During the night, three thieves broke into his home in Beit Yitzhak-Sha’ar Heifer, where he lives with his wife and two daughters, and stole his computer. Or so the story goes.

Israeli media has revealed the theft of the computer, but not the identity of the moron who lost it (twice). Ask yourself why the military censor should prohibit reporting of this. Will it make a difference to preserve the identity of the theft victim? Will it make it that much harder for Israel’s enemies to figure out who he is or what material may’ve been compromised?

Israel boasts of its military and intelligence advantages over its enemies. It can, so the story goes, penetrate the most secure defenses of its enemies. Israel, on the other hand, is impregnable. It’s security assets are secure.  What’s important about this story is that Israel is beset by a major case of hubris. It creates a narrative that arrogates to itself permanent domination over its enemies. It foresees no weaknesses, no vulnerabilities. Except when there are.

There is another delicious irony in this scandal. Israel, several years ago persuaded the world that an allegedly stolen Iranian laptop containing top-secret documents about its nuclear weapons program had mysteriously come into its possession. The laptop was a fraud as was its supposed theft. But this laptop theft was very real. And if the thieves were associated with Hezbollah or Iran the data is already in the hands of Iran’s chief nuclear scientist. The one Israel failed to assassinate several years ago in a murder attempt that almost succeeded.

The reason it’s important that the world know the identity of the alleged victim, which I offer here thanks to the outrage one Israeli feels toward the security lapses of Israel’s élite, is that secrecy works in Horev’s favor. He would never be held accountable if the censor had anything to say about it. Even with exposure he’s likely to get off scot-free. That’s better off than Ben Zygier found himself. As I’ve written here, Ben was expendable. Israel rarely holds powerful security interests accountable. While it often holds the average citizen accountable. Even more so the weak or poor.

Shaul Horev has proven himself a major security risk.  He will get away with compromising the nuclear secrets of the State because he works for the prime minister and embarrassing Bibi would not be countenanced. This is yet another bit of hypocrisy in the annals of the national security state.

{ 11 comments… add one }
  • Oui February 26, 2013, 5:36 AM

    Is Shaul Chorev spearheading Netanyahu’s political force on foreign policy or a nuclear scientist assigned as Israel’s representative to IAEA?

    Israel’s nuclear chief Chorev: Jerusalem can defend itself

    Israel is not indifferent to “direct and blunt” Iranian threats to its existence and is “competent to deter its enemies and to defend itself. Iran’s nuclear activities are conducted in violation of all relevant UN Security Council and IAEA Board of Governors resolutions, and are carried out with impunity, as measures of the international community have no effect on Iran’s nuclear program.”

    Chorev added that Iranian fingerprints were all over Syria, where “the Syrian regime fights for its survival at a cost of tens of thousands of lives of innocent Syrian civilians.”

    I’m astonished how Israel fails to view the Islamist violence (Al-Nusra Front) in Syria not as a potential existential threat to the Jewish state. I’m very interested to hear John Kerry as he travels through the region and visits key states. I’m hoping for a signal of change but won’t hold my breath.

    As I recall, a number of bombings in Lebanon in 2005 – Rafiq Hariri – Gebran Tueni – Pierre Gemayal were claimed by a Salafist group called “Strugglers for the Unity and Freedom of al-Sham” and linked to Jund al-Sham. A precursor?

    • Davey February 26, 2013, 11:40 PM

      “in violation of all relevant UN Security Council and IAEA Board of Governors resolutions, and are carried out with impunity,” Israel’s nuclear program violates no agreements or UN resolutions because Israel has not agreed to any covenants about its nuclear program and this because that program doesn’t exist. It is a completely renegade program, an bit of “exceptionalism.”

  • Oui February 26, 2013, 6:15 AM

    Iranian dissidents …
    “Despite the fact that it was listed as a terrorist organization,
    the MEK was a favorite of neoconservatives in the Pentagon.”

    The Obama administration (Hillary Clinton) has moved beyond the neocon past(?) and removed the MEK from its list as a terrorist organization. The Mossad loves to “piggy-back” terror groups like MEK and Jundullah for terror strikes deep in Iran. The Mossad has proven in the past how effective that can be by funding and infiltrating the Baader Meinhof gang after the 1972 Munich Olympic Massacre. Golda Meir’s select group was named Committee X, how fitting.

    Shin Bet says “trust us”, Israel is not a dark nation where its citizens just disappear from the face of the earth …
    By Yossi Melman in article: Prisoner X, the Mossad and The Futility of Censorship.

  • Eden February 26, 2013, 6:18 AM

    You have to wonder if these events are not more controlled than they seem. Israel does not want to break its ambiguity on whether it has nukes or not but can “leak” information that causes its enemy to pause when considering attacking it.
    I am convinced that this was the case with Vanunu who served as the conduit to release dissuasive information without changing Israel’s policy on the nuclear ambiguity.

    • marc b. February 27, 2013, 12:03 PM

      oh the convergence of it all. i agree with eden, and richard has ‘the worst kept secret’ on the website store. in ‘worst’ cohen details the negotiations between the US/nixon and israel about its nascent nuclear weapons stock, ultimately agreeing that israel would not ‘introduce’ nuclear weapons into the ME, included in its novel definition of ‘introduction’ that israel may ‘possess’ such weapons but not publicly acknowledge its possession. that’s where vanunu comes in, whether willing participant or sucker. israel gets to publicly disclose the existence of nuclear weapons, while nominally keeping its deal with the US. the computer thefts could be more of that, or something worse, like the intentional transfer of nuclear information, but who knows.

  • Elad R February 26, 2013, 11:36 AM

    Israel never needed to steal the Iranian laptop, Israel for a while was getting all the information entered in many Iranian’s computers, to the level that every letter typed among certain computers in Iran was being read in Tel-Aviv. Among the documents circulated was a detailed drawing of the chamber in parchin military base, and many others.

    I have no particular knowledge of the documents the anti-war guys talk about. To draw a conclusion out of that incident is simply the wrong thing to do in my opinion.

  • Oui February 27, 2013, 12:26 PM

    “The blogger Richard Silverstein pointed out the irony that Israel had previously claimed to have obtained secrets about Iran’s nuclear programme from a stolen laptop which it used as evidence of Iran’s ambitions for nuclear weapons – claims now widely believed to be untrue.”
    The Guardian by
    Phoebe Greenwood in Tel Aviv
    | 27 February 2013 16.33 GMT |

    • Richard Silverstein February 27, 2013, 12:39 PM

      Thanks for letting me know that. Finally someone in the MSM has picked up the story. But she didn’t get it quite right. According to Barak Ravid, the IAEC actually broke the gag order & violated censorship. There wasn’t a partial lifting of the gag. Though it could be that Ravid misunderstood the situation & Greenwood has it right.

      • Elad R. February 28, 2013, 5:07 AM

        Since Ravid is an Israeli journalist based in Israel and since every gag and or censorship orders are forwarded immediately to all Israel based media outlets, i assume he got it right and she got it second hand.
        But then again, who knows.

  • shmuel February 28, 2013, 10:03 PM

    In this case there is a logical reason for the initial gag order as the thieves may not know exactly from whom they stole, they may well have thought him just to be an ordinary rich person. Supplying them with the info thro’ the media would motivate them to up the market price for the stolen goods and make them read what’s on the computer instead of giving to their kids…

    • Richard Silverstein March 1, 2013, 12:24 AM

      It’s easy enough for a resourceful thief in Israel to know precisely whose house he’s burglarizing. Given there were video surveillance cameras & likely an alarm system I just don’t believe these were run of the mill criminals. They knew what they wanted and they didn’t want what average burglars would want (electronic gear, jewelry, etc.).

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