Two air force fighter pilots have been handed short prison sentences and 12 others were tried for breaching military security protocols, after top-secret information was found on their smartphones, Army Radio reported Wednesday.
The affair, which involves pilots from one of the IAF’s most elite units, unearthed a culture of carelessness and lack of discipline, highlighting some of the security challenges faced by the military in an age of increasingly advanced portable technology.
Military officials did not suspect any malicious intent on the pilots’ part, saying that the information found on the smartphones – which included photographs of documents, maps, waypoints and additional materials – was placed there as a matter of convenience, a way for pilots to carry their work around with them.
Still, the army viewed the breach of protocol very severely, with IAF chief Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel convening senior commanders on Tuesday to discuss the incident. He told them the air force must root out such practices and instructed them to ensure that such behavior was not occurring in other units.
The military investigation was first launched after one pilot lost his phone and reported to his superiors that in violation of protocol it contained classified data, the report said. The phone was eventually located and handed over to information security officials, who found it to contain a wealth of information that military officials said could have been very damaging in the wrong hands.
The find led officials to conduct a wider investigation, during which they discovered that the practice was widespread among pilots in the squadron. Information stored on phones pertained to training and operational procedures, and possibly military intelligence.
Eventually 14 pilots were indicted. Two of them were sentenced to five days’ imprisonment, 11 others were given suspended sentences and one was fined.