Defense Ministry Contacting Former Israeli Jurists to Prevent Security Leaks

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A former attorney general of Israel posted on Facebook Thursday that he was contacted by a special arm of the Defense Ministry charged with preventing the leak of classified information.

The department, called the Director of Security of the Defense Establishment and known by its Hebrew acronym Malmab, said it reached out to former Attorney General Michael Ben-Yair to “keep in contact” with him and prevent data leaks. Ben-Yair responded to Malmab’s effort by describing the phone call he had the department on his Facebook page.

Ben-Yair wrote on Facebook that during a short phone conversation, he was informed by people from “an important unit” that the prime minister had ordered the establishment of a department dedicated to maintaining contact with officials previously party to sensitive government secrets.

“Despite it being very flattering that they want to keep in touch with me (and who knows, may even update me on government secrets ...), I rejected the request on the spot,” Ben-Yair wrote. He continued, “The reason: I'm not a devotee of 'Big Brother' on television and certainly not in reality.”

Ben-Yair told Haaretz he is not interested in providing further details about his short phone conversation with Malmab. “This whole thing is ridiculous and totally baseless and I don't want to be involved with it,” Ben-Yair said. “I posted it because I thought it was important that the public know that there is a strange unit like this.”

The Defense Ministry presented the phone call as a routine activity when asked to comment.

“As part of their job, representatives of the Director of Security of the Defense Establishment are in contact with individuals who served in a broad variety of roles in the civil service in the past and were exposed to classified data,” the ministry said in a statement. “Within this framework, meetings are held with many individuals for preserving their personal safety and to prevent leaks of sensitive data.”

The ministry added that Malmab would continue to fulfill its duties.

This is not the first time Malmab's attempts to contact former senior government officials have ended up in the media. Last year, former government minister Yossi Sarid wrote in Haaretz about a meeting he had with officials from Malmab. Sarid has said the focus, of the meeting was his 2008 book “Accordingly, We Are Here Assembled.” In the book, which Sarid describes as a work of fiction, there is a description of a discussion in which Shimon Peres proposes conducting a nuclear experiment in Israel.

“Who the hell sent those security people to attack the book and me, and what exactly did he want to achieve,” wrote Sarid at the time. “And why now of all times?”

After Sarid's article's was published, the Defense Ministry described the meeting as routine and “intended to aid officials to prevent leaks of sensitive data.”

Facebook.Credit: Reuters
Former attorney general Michal Ben-Yair.Credit: Motti Kimchi

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