The developments from last night’s post about the theft of a computer containing classified documents from the home of the director general of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, would be hilarious if they weren’t deeply disturbing. Yesterday, an Israeli source revealed that Shaul Horev’s home was broken into and valuables stolen including his laptop (for the second time!). The source confirmed the computer contained sensitive State documents concerning Israel’s nuclear secrets. In this country, national security officials have been fired or disciplined for similar offenses. But this is Israel, not the U.S.
Since I published my post, Haaretz reported that there was not only military censorship prohibiting publication of Horev’s name, but a police-initiated gag order. Despite all this, within an hour of my post appearing, the IAEC press spokesperson broke censorship and the gag, to reveal that the crime victim was Horev. For some reason, one of Israel’s most critical national security agencies either deliberately or accidentally violated two different State secrecy provisions: a fine kettle of fish, to quote Stan Laurel (hence the reference to the Keystone Cops in the title).
The Israeli MSM story (Hebrew) which first exposed Horev, appeared in Yediot Achronot and contained numerous inaccuracies (or lies, depending on how you look at it). It claimed no computer was stolen and that no classified materials were among the materials taken.
It did reveal there was video surveillance of the home though it didn’t mention an alarm system. This leads me to believe that this was not a random crime of opportunity, but likely a theft designed to expose Israeli nuclear secrets. So many nations would want to do so it would be hard to know where to start. Iran and Hezbollah leap to the top of the list. But the U.S. too would love to have such information (though I hardly think they’d stoop to burglary to get it).
What I found astonishing about the Yediot report was that there wasn’t a hint of embarrassment from the IAEC or government about the break-in. Not a whiff of concern that extraordinarily sensitive data might’ve been compromised. There was concerned expressed for Horev’s security and a suggestion that they might offer him personal security both in his home and outside it (until now his security detail stopped at his front door).
There wasn’t a hint in the report that Israel’s highest level nuclear official shouldn’t have had nuclear secrets inside his unsecured home. In any western country this would be a huge scandal. Horev would be fired. The PM would be hauled before Knesset to explain how it all happened. But thanks to censorship and a willing press these questions are never asked and Israelis are unaware of the ineptitude of the officials responsible for some the State’s deepest secrets.
Though I try to keep a level head about my impact on the Israeli censorship regime, Barak Ravid implied that my post caused the IAEC to come forward with Horev’s identity. Ironically, Ravid himself adheres to the gag and doesn’t name Horev in his own report:
The IAEC decision to publish [Horev's name] came as a result of a series of reports by foreign media on the incident, including the identity of the homeowner [Horev].
There were no “series of reports” which identified Horev (though there were reports on the incident which didn’t name him). There was only one naming him, mine.
What’s terribly ironic about all this is that it shows both the censor, police and Israeli judicial system have learned nothing from the damage they all did to Israel’s credibility by dropping a veil over Ben Zygier and his imprisonment. They disappeared him for three years including two entire years after his death. Given the tremendous embarrassment and negative fall-out, you’d think they’d have decided that secrecy in such situations causes more harm than good.
But censors don’t change their spots. It seems to be the only way they know to act in the context of Israel’s national security state.