AG, Israel Police Considering Probe Into Ehud Barak’s Leak

Law prohibits public officials from giving information they gained in office to unauthorized recipients.

Moti Milrod

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and senior police officials are considering launching a probe into whether Ehud Barak violated the law by giving confidential information to two co-authors for the book they wrote about him, sources told Haaretz.

The discussions aren’t about the Barak tapes recently leaked to Channel 2; those were broadcast legally, with the approval by the military censor (which deleted one secret regarding Israel’s preparations to attack Iran). Instead, the discussions center on an earlier stage, when Barak gave confidential information to Ilan Kfir and Danny Dor. This may have involved violation of Article 117 of the Penal Code, which prohibits public officials from handing over information they receive pursuant to their jobs to anybody not authorized to receive it. The punishment for this offense can be up to three years in prison.

The prohibition in law applies to ministers and other high-ranking people giving military information to ghost writers, it has been said in the discussions, which involve Weinstein, his deputy for criminal affairs, Raz Nizri, leading police officers and on the side, the military censor.

This law has never been enforced before. Last September, the national fraud squad recommended charging former chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi for revealing secret information during a press briefing. The prosecution isn’t keen on the idea and Weinstein is apparently about to close the Ashkenazi case.

Article 117 exempts only a public employee delivering information “regarding state security or its foreign relations” if he first troubled to pass it by “an authorized entity” who decided that the disclosure can’t hurt. The default for that “authorized entity” will be the censor, according to an order approved by the cabinet, but still awaiting the Knesset’s imprimatur.

Barak, as former defense minister, should have obtained permission from appropriate Defense Ministry officials before his taped conversations with Kfir and Dor. If he writes his memoirs himself, rather than have others write them, he would have to obtain the approval for his draft from a ministerial committee headed by the justice minister.

In any case, the censor isn’t responsible for these earlier stages of the process – checking the information and deciding whether to approve it or delete parts; it only gets involved at the publication stage. The censor hasn’t banned publicizing the discussions of the security cabinet – the forum at which the Barak tapes were discussed – since the 1980s, unless the content of the discussion could hurt national security.

Israelis involved in secret talks with Russian president Vladimir Putin, hoping to stop Russia from selling ground-to-air S-300 missiles to Iran, were incensed at what Barak was saying on the tapes.

Russia has been defending its sale on the grounds that the missiles are for defensive purposes. Israel doesn’t agree. It argues that Iran doesn’t have to defend itself against anybody, because Israel isn’t planning to attack, adding that the missiles pose a threat to Israel because Iran could give them to Hezbollah; and due to their range, they could even disrupt the IAF’s freedom of movement in southern Israel. Now Barak has confirmed in those tapes that in contrast to the claims brought before Putin, Israel did plan to attack Iran, which has damaged the persisting effort to thwart the S-300 sale.