Israeli Military Plans Polygraph Jihad

Amos Harel reports for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz in an article tiled, “IDF Officers to Get Polygraphs Over War Leaks”:

Dozens of officers will be questioned with a lie detector about their contacts with journalists, as part of a probe of leaks to the media during the recent Lebanon war.

Military Advocate General Brigadier Avihai Mandelblit ordered the investigation into suspected media leaks at the request of Chief of Staff Dan Halutz.

“A number of incidents during the war raised suspicions that contacts were made with reporters contrary to military orders … in a way that could have endangered lives,” the Israel Defense Forces Spokesman’s Office said in a statement.

The investigation is expected to focus on “serial leakers,” mainly about issues that angered Halutz, such as leaks on IDF activity in Lebanon while it was still in progress. The chief of staff said that he considers instances of officers being in direct contact with reporters and leaking unauthorized information to be very grave.

The announcement of the MAG probe against officers sent shock waves through the army yesterday. As a result, many officers have been afraid to talk to journalists in recent days, while others are busy worrying about whether they said too much during the war.

If information about special forces engaging in operations deep in enemy territory did indeed leak while the troops were still in Lebanon, this is a serious security breach that must be closed to prevent danger to soldiers’ lives. However, the IDF has not had much success in closing such breaches in the past. Nine years after the naval commando disaster in Lebanon, the official military version still holds that an accidental explosion went off, rather than admitting that the disaster was caused by an intelligence hitch and Hezbollah cunning.

However, it seems unlikely that the only thing troubling Halutz is the security of his forces. If this were the case, why did the MAG wait more than two months after the end of the war before starting his probe?

Rather, it seems that an attempt is being made to keep army officers’ criticisms of the top brass from leaking outside. The IDF Spokesman’s Office hinted at this when it denounced “officers who are in direct contact with journalists without authorization.”

However, it seems doubtful that Halutz will obtain quiet for long. The officers have too much pent up anger to keep quiet, and they will find other ways to speak. If Halutz orders transcripts of officers’ conversations on mobile phones, they will get other people to speak for them. Moreover, reservists cannot be silenced, nor can GOC Northern Command Udi Adam, who leaves his post next Monday.

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