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Shin Bet officers slapped on wrist for letting ex-con work for defense minister

Agency says ‘procedural errors’ enabled Omri Goren, who allegedly offered to spy for Iran-linked hackers, to stay on as Benny Gantz’s cleaner

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Screen capture from video of Omri Goren, accused of offering to spy on Defense Minister Benny Gantz for Iran, during a remand hearing at Lod District Court, on December 2, 2021. (Channel 12 News)
Screen capture from video of Omri Goren, accused of offering to spy on Defense Minister Benny Gantz for Iran, during a remand hearing at Lod District Court, on December 2, 2021. (Channel 12 News)

The Shin Bet said Tuesday it had found numerous failures in its vetting process, after a man with multiple criminal convictions was okayed to work as a house cleaner for Defense Minister Benny Gantz and allegedly offered to spy on him for a group thought to be linked to Iran.

The security agency said it issued two official reprimands over the affair and promised to clean up its act.

The cleaner, Omri Goren, was arrested last month after allegedly making contact with hacking group Black Shadow, thought to be linked to Iran, and offering to assist the group in exchange for money.

Through his lawyer, he has largely admitted to the allegations, but has denied that he knowingly offered to help Iran.

After his arrest, it was discovered that Goren had an extensive criminal history, with five convictions and four prison sentences for a variety of crimes, including two bank robberies.

This prompted the Shin Bet, which is tasked with protecting Israeli officials, to launch an internal probe to determine how Goren, who was hired before Gantz entered politics, had been permitted to continue working for him once he became defense minister.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks during a ceremony honoring wounded soldiers, in Tel Aviv, November 21, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The Shin Bet released the findings of its probe on Tuesday, saying it had identified “procedural failures in the way that Omri Goren’s security check was conducted,” citing issues with work-flow procedures, professional activities and oversight mechanisms that it said “should have discovered the mistake after it happened.”

To address these failures, the Shin Bet said it had tightened its protocols regarding people who work with protected individuals.

In addition to the internal probe, an external committee — made up of three former Shin Bet officers — investigated the matter and “designated the incident a procedural error,” the security service said.

Two managers — the equivalent of military officers — received official reprimands, but no other punishments were issued, the Shin Bet said.

Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar also hailed the security service for quickly arresting Goren before he could act.

“Despite the arrest success, we failed in prevention. In a proper process, a man like this should not have been working around a protected individual. The mistake that happened in this particular incident allowed us to perform a deep investigation that allowed us to improve our processes and oversight mechanisms in everything regarding employees of protective people,” Bar said.

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