Probe Into Breaking the Silence Finds It Only Collected Low-level Classified Information

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Breaking the Silence offices, Tel Aviv, Israel. 2014
Breaking the Silence offices, Tel Aviv, Israel. 2014Credit: Reuters

A preliminary army probe into allegations that Breaking the Silence was collecting classified information from soldiers has found that, although some of the information was classified, it was at the relatively low level of “confidential.”

The initial investigation conducted by the Israel Defense Forces, at the behest of Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, was concluded on Wednesday, a defense official told Haaretz.

A visitor takes a picture at the 'Breaking the Silence' exhibition at the Kulturhaus Helferei in Zurich, June 8, 2015.Credit: Reuters

Because Breaking the Silence is a civilian organization, it was decided that the Shin Bet security service will be responsible for the completion of the probe, as the IDF does not have the jurisdiction to question civilians, the official added.

“A soldier who is exposed during his military service to classified information and passes it on after his discharge to an unauthorized person is acting in an improper manner, and could possibly be committing a serious crime,” said the official.

Breaking the Silence collects testimonies from soldiers serving in the occupied territories and highlights instances of perceived wrongdoing by the Israeli army. It has come under increasing pressure from right-wing politicians and groups in recent months, starting after its report into 2014’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza and its willingness to take its message overseas.

Last week, Channel 2 News reported that the nongovernmental organization also gathers information about military operations while collecting soldiers’ testimonies. The TV report was based on hidden camera footage recorded by the right-wing Ad Kan organization, which places activists in left-wing organizations in order to collect and publish incriminating information about them.

The footage shows Breaking the Silence activists collecting statements from former soldiers and asking them about alerts concerning tunnels on the border with the Gaza Strip. Activists also asked about military equipment used by the IDF, military positions and deployments, and operational protocols.

After the report was aired, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blasted Breaking the Silence and said an investigation had been launched into the allegations. He added that the group has “crossed yet another red line.”

Last Monday, Ya’alon went further and accused the organization of committing treason by collecting operational information. On Thursday, however, the defense minister clarified that gathering military secrets is not an act of treason unless those secrets are passed to the enemy.

Instead, Ya’alon said, Breaking the Silence and the soldiers who provided it with testimonies had committed information security offenses.