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.