Police opened an investigation this week into suspicions that either close associates of former Defense Minister Ehud Barak or Maj. Gen. (res.) Yoav Galant gave top-secret documents to people who weren’t authorized to see them.
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The documents included analyses of gaps in Israel’s intelligence-gathering network, details of relations between the various intelligence services, operational plans for fighting Hamas in Gaza and classified codenames of weapons systems.
Though the fraud squad received information about the documents over five months ago, it did nothing with it until now, despite knowing that unauthorized people continued to hold the documents in question. That delay could lead to fraud squad officers themselves being investigated for negligence.
The delay is especially surprising given that, just last week, police recommended indicting three former senior Israel Defense Forces officers for similar offenses: former Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, for giving journalists information classified as top-secret, and two of his top aides – Col. (res.) Erez Weiner and former IDF Spokesman Avi Benayahu – for improperly storing top-secret information on their personal computers.
Benayahu’s attorneys contacted the fraud squad three times, on March 26, June 18 and June 23, to warn that the McCann Erickson advertising agency – against which Benayahu had filed a libel suit (which was ultimately settled out of court) – was holding top-secret documents. But only after the attorneys contacted the prosecutor overseeing the probe into the case known as the Harpaz Affair did fraud squad chief Efraim Bracha finally order his staff to look into the matter.
The Harpaz affair began with a forged document aimed at thwarting Galant’s appointment as chief of staff, but quickly expanded into other issues, ultimately resulting in last week’s recommendation to indict Ashkenazi, Benayahu, Weiner and two other former senior officers on various charges.
In late March, attorneys Eyal Rosovsky and Zion Amir gave the police a collection of documents that they had obtained during their client’s suit against McCann Erickson. They also warned that “these documents can presumably be found in other places as well.”
The attorneys cited several documents as being of particular concern, including the minutes of two meetings in which Galant testified to the State Comptroller’s Office about the Harpaz Affair. In the minutes, “which are classified as top-secret, Galant discussed extremely sensitive security issues at length,” the attorneys wrote.
To prepare for the libel suit, the letter continued, McCann Erickson’s attorneys spoke with various people who could have been responsible for giving the agency the documents. It specifically listed five of them: Galant; Barak; Barak’s former bureau chief, Yoni Koren; and journalists Ayala Hasson and Alex Fishman.
In one document, written about two months after Galant’s appointment as chief of staff was voided, Galant told the comptroller’s office that while preparing to assume the post, he had concluded “that the intelligence system is at a nadir.” In particular, he charged that during Ashkenazi’s term as chief of staff, then-Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin “began giving intelligence assessments in accordance with Ashkenazi’s views.”
Galant also discussed four different intelligence units, which he identified by both name and number, saying one had improved and three had gotten worse. In addition, he described MI’s relations with both the Mossad and the Shin Bet security service as “extremely bad.”
The documents obtained by McCann Erickson also included the minutes of two conversations in which Galant, a former GOC Southern Command, described various alternatives for conducting aerial or ground operations in Gaza, including their codenames. Another document included the classified codename of a weapons system.
The documents also contained top-secret correspondence (“sensitive, personal, for your eyes only”) between Ashkenazi and other people, including then-Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin; affidavits that Barak and Galant gave to the comptroller’s office; and transcripts of conversations between Ashkenazi and his aides.
The documents also included Galant’s comments on many non-classified matters, including his personal opinion of Ashkenazi – “a con man, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” – and of himself: “I’m the one best suited to be chief of staff.”