Israel Downgrades Its Open-source Military Intelligence Unit

Army weighed closing Hatzav, which gathers information from publicly available sources, before lowering the rank needed to command it.

Members of the IDF's Hatzav open-source intelligence unit, in a file photo from 2013. One male and one female soldier are seen from the back as they look at computer screens, wearing headphones. Hanging on the wall is a green banner with white Arabic script.
Moti Milrod

A unit within Israel’s Military Intelligence that gathers information from publicly available sources has been downgraded after a review that also considered closing it. The review led to a decision to lower the rank needed to head the Hatzav open-source intelligence-gathering unit to that of a major.

The decision was made by the director of Military Intelligence, Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevi.

In the past, Hatzav focused on monitoring traditional media sources in the Arab world — newspapers, radio and television — but it has shifted its focus of attention to social media. Draftees and career soldiers in the unit monitor Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and online forums for information that can support intelligence insights that are submitted up the MI command chain. Hatzav is also pivoting from classic OSINT work into areas touching on cybersecurity.

It was previously reported that the Israel Defense Forces had contracted with a few civilian firms to monitor internet traffic, and presumably thoughts on additional outsourcing were behind the talk of closing Hatzav.

In a response, the IDF Spokesman’s Office said the decision to lower the rank needed to command the unit was made for professional reasons and would not affect the activities of the importance of Hatzav. “In the course of the process, the unit’s capabilities were improved and additional intelligence aspects were added to it.”