'He carried out an attack on the core secrets of Israel'

TV: Jailed officer who died caused ‘great’ harm, was caught before doing worse

Unsourced report claims intel officer was motivated by ‘professional pride,’ says army was seeking 10-year prison term; in letter to IDF chief, family slams ‘defamation campaign’

Israelis protest outside the HaKirya base in Tel Aviv, calling for the release of information about the Military Intelligence officer who died in prison, on June 7, 2021 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Israelis protest outside the HaKirya base in Tel Aviv, calling for the release of information about the Military Intelligence officer who died in prison, on June 7, 2021 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

An intelligence officer who died under unclear circumstances in military prison last month was arrested “after great damage was done, but before huge damage could occur,” Channel 12 news reported Friday.

The report made multiple claims, but no sources were given for the information.

The officer was motivated by “professional pride” and military prosecutors had been considering seeking a 10-year sentence for the officer, the report said.

According to Channel 12, the officer was not motivated by money or revenge, but instead a desire to “succeed where others had failed.”

The report said the solider served in a “unit of geniuses,” in which competitiveness and creativity were encouraged, and that he had been initially rejected during the selection process due to his “complex and childish personality.” However, he was later accepted into the unit when his candidacy was reexamined.

The military’s nearly completed Prison 10 complex, built to replace the Israel Defense Forces’ existing British Mandate-era prisons. (Israel Defense Forces)

Analysts for the network additionally said the case was an example of the need for higher levels of psychological oversight for soldiers during their service as well as in military prisons, highlighting the soldier’s “brilliant brain but immature mind.”

The report said that the officer admitted to the things he was accused of and that investigators quickly ruled out the possibility that he had been recruited by a foreign agent.

A separate report by Channel 13 news identified the officer by the first Hebrew initial of his name — “T” — and said the Military Intelligence technology unit he served in handled some of the country’s most sensitive and secret information.

“He carried out an attack on the core secrets of the State of Israel. The IDF is trying to prevent this damage from spreading. If this is published, this damage will be much greater. In the eyes of the officer, he didn’t try to do something wrong,” the news station’s military analyst Alon Ben-David said.

The network also said the officer completed a bachelor’s degree in computer science at 17 before he was conscripted to Military Intelligence.

The reports came after the family of the officer slammed the military on Friday for what they termed a “defamation campaign,” saying they “won’t allow the truth to be buried.”

The family’s statement came a day after the officer’s relatives and the Israel Defense Forces sparred over the decision to continue to bar the publication of the serviceman’s name, with each claiming the other was responsible.

“We will not be silent or rest until the full truth is revealed,” the family said in a letter to IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi on Friday, slamming the military for what they termed a “defamation campaign.”

The grave of an IDF officer who died in jail under unclear circumstances (Screen grab/Kan)

“Unfortunately, we still have not found the time to mourn [our son]. We are in a terrible witch hunt, in chaos, where every website has a picture of his grave as we try to understand how we lost our son, and why — who did not look after him, who abandoned him,” the family said. “Even before the facts became clear, you also chose to use words that only intensified our pain, which cast a huge black stain on him while he could not respond.”

The family described the deceased officer as “unique, with rare skills, who became an outstanding soldier.”

“He was never involved in a single disciplinary offense,” the family said. “Toward the end of his service, they chose to level serious accusations against him, completely ignoring the responsibility of his senior commanders.

“It is not ‘out of a desire’ as you said, ‘to maintain his modesty and the privacy of his family,’ but for fear that it will show how military intelligence operates: give freedom of action and encourage a soldier’s creativity. But instead of monitoring the soldier and his actions, they turn a blind eye until it gets out of hand,” the statement read.

“We have no doubt that our son did not act to intentionally harm our country,” the family said.

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi speaks at a conference on June 9, 2021. (Screen capture)

Also Friday, the Kan public broadcaster claimed the officer wanted to impress his commanders so he could receive “the highest quality and most important” missions in his unit. The broadcaster, which did not cite a source, said the officer knowingly broke the rules in his effort to make an impression on his superiors.

The officer was in prison at the time of his death as he was charged with severe national security offenses, the precise nature of which is also censored.

The military has said the officer worked alone and did not act on behalf of a foreign government or for financial gain or out of ideology, but out of unspecified “personal motivations.”

Kohavi on Wednesday defended the military’s decision to impose strict censorship on the officer’s death, saying it was necessary to protect both the country and the serviceman’s privacy. Kohavi said the officer had nearly caused damage to a state secret, but the damage was prevented at the last minute.

The Israel Defense Forces claimed on Thursday that the reason for the continued court-issued gag order on the officer’s identity, which has been widely shared on social media, is due to a request from his family, not from security concerns.

Benny Kuznitz, attorney for the family of a Military Intelligence officer who died in custody last month, speaks to reporters before a hearing in a military court in IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv on June 7, 2021. (Flash90)

The family’s attorney Benny Kuznitz responded: “The IDF Spokesperson forgot that we don’t live in the 1980s, and much in the way you can’t disappear a person you can’t brief journalists and publish irresponsible statements.

“The contents of the statement are in violation of agreements with the prosecution, according to which the security risks in publishing [the name] have not yet been considered by the Operations Directorate,” he added.

The officer was arrested last year and indicted in September. He had not yet been convicted, but was being held in prison while his attorneys and military prosecutors were negotiating a potential plea deal. On the night of May 16, he was found in serious condition in his cell and was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead a few hours later.

Though an autopsy was performed — with a doctor on behalf of the family present — no official cause of death has yet been determined, according to the IDF, though military officials indicated it appeared to be a suicide. Relatives of the officer have expressed doubt that he died by suicide.

An autopsy of the officer’s body found traces of antidepressants in his blood, Channel 13 news reported Thursday.

According to the IDF, the officer had access to a senior military defense attorney who had full access to information regarding the charges against him. The hearings against him were held behind closed doors, though members of his family were allowed to be present during portions of the trial, the military said.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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