IDF's Imaging System Gives Troops Access to Top Secret Data

A digital control-and-command system in widespread use among Israel Defense Forces combat soldiers in the West Bank enables troops without proper security clearance to view detailed satellite imagery of secret army bases throughout the country.

The "Mesuah" (Beacon ) system, which was manufactured by defense electronics firm Elbit, has been utilized by the IDF for the past six years, aiding combat units in routine patrol missions all across the Central Command. The system enables soldiers to view the exact locations of infantry forces and military vehicles thanks to detailed aerial images.

Thousands of Mesuah screens have been installed in patrol jeeps belonging to officers no lower than the rank of a company commander in addition to dozens of the army's fixed observation towers, also known as pillboxes.

Although the information transmitted to the screen is encrypted, it remains accessible to almost every combat soldier serving in the Judea and Samaria Division, including troops without the requisite security clearance.

While most units that rely on Mesuah use it to cull relevant information limited to their immediate area of responsibility, the system also contains maps of every zone of activity subject to the authority of the Central Command.

Soldiers are also able to view high-resolution images that are clear enough so as to enable one to notice buildings, roadways, and trees.

In addition, Mesuah allows soldiers to view images of the army's most secret installations - IDF bases the media is not allowed to reveal exist.

"There is no oversight on the use of the Mesuah," said an IDF officer currently stationed with a unit in the West Bank. "Any soldier who finds himself bored at night can play with the system and see every detail on the ground, including the most classified information. Whoever wants to photograph the images with his personal camera can do so and then send those pictures to a web site like WikiLeaks, which is just waiting to post this kind of data on the Internet. I'm shocked over these holes in the safeguarding of information."