Shin Bet to probe background check process after Gantz’s house cleaner arrested

Officials admit to failure in case of Omri Goren, who served four prison sentences for numerous crimes before arrest on suspicion of spying for Iran

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Benny Gantz is seen getting into a car next to a personal security guard, in Tel Aviv, on March 15, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Benny Gantz is seen getting into a car next to a personal security guard, in Tel Aviv, on March 15, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The Shin Bet security service said Thursday it formed a committee to investigate how it performs background checks on people who work closely with senior officials, after Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s house cleaner was arrested for allegedly offering to spy on him for an Iran-linked hacking group.

“Obviously the process failed in this specific case, which should have been identified in advance in order to not allow a person like this to work in close proximity to the defense minister,” Shin Bet officials said in a statement.

The employee, Omri Goren, had been convicted of a number of serious crimes prior to his employment by Gantz, including two convictions for bank robbery, as well as theft and breaking and entering. Goren served four prison sentences, his most recent stretch for four years.

Goren was hired before Gantz became defense minister, and it appeared that the Shin Bet never looked into his personal history.

“A reconsideration of the security assessment processes will be conducted regarding workers surrounding protected people. Lessons have already been learned. We are, accordingly, putting together new protocols and work methods that will give us a better response to the level of threat and potential for damage,” the Shin Bet officials said.

According to the Shin Bet, Goren reached out earlier this month to “a figure affiliated with Iran and offered to help him in different ways, in light of his access to the minister’s home.”

Omri Goren. (Channel 12 screenshot)

In the indictment, the figure was identified as a representative of the Iran-linked hacking group Black Shadow, which carried out a major cyberattack on Israeli civilian websites last month, stealing data from a popular Israeli LGBT dating site, among other things.

Though the charge sheet did not explicitly deal with Goren’s motivations, it indicated that he was acting out of financial considerations, allegedly telling the group that he would “transfer information from the house to [Black Shadow] in exchange for a sum of money.”

According to the indictment, he took photographs of Gantz’s desk, computer, phone and tablet; a closed safe and a shredder; pictures of Gantz and his family; and a copy of the minister’s local property tax payments.

Gantz has reportedly been targeted by Iranian hacking efforts in the past. In 2019, his personal cellphone was said to have been hacked by Iran.

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