Post Shin Bet Officials Stole Millions of ShekelsBy: Brett Redmayne-Titley
For the past few weeks, I reported about a major scandal in the Shin Bet. Thanks to the opacity of the national security state (i.e. a gag order) we only knew this was likely a case of corruption of the sort I reported here involving the Mossad.
A former Shabak agent told me he believed the scale of the corruption was massive and that a number of personnel had simply disappeared from their desks, presumably arrested.
Now, the gag has been lifted partially. Though we know more about the case, I’m not certain what we know is fully accurate.
Walla, which broke the original story, says that two low-level administrative employees stole an unreported sum over the course of several years. The embezzlement was supposedly discovered via an internal audit.
My own security source places the theft at 2-million shekels, which has not been reported in the Israeli media. That would indicate that a number of aspects of the story remain under gag. Though the agency would have us believe this is a minor scandal, $550,000 is a lot of money to most Israelis.
Questions abound: how did two supposedly low-level employees have the authority to access this sort of money? Who was supposed to be monitoring them? Were they alone in the scheme or were higher-ups involved or turning a blind eye?
If minor staff members of a major intelligence agency can steal that much money, one of three things is true: either they’re not low-level as is claimed; Shabak has slipshod accounting procedures; or the crooks were exceedingly smart. Any one of these things should be very disturbing to both the Shabak and those who oversee it.
Here lies another problem: unlike intelligence agencies in western democracies, Israeli intelligence agencies (and virtually the entire military apparatus) have almost no oversight. Budgets are secret. Operations are planned and executed with very little outside supervision or approval. Investigations or audits are secret and internal. The media is held at bay by gag orders and censorship. Given this, Israelis have no way of knowing what their intelligence agencies are doing, what they spend their money on, whether those funds are well-spent, who’s violating their trust, etc. That is the price paid for living in a national security state.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed several flattering profiles of Shabak chief, Nadav Argaman. There was even one which breathlessly portrayed his 6 am workout on his personal exercise bike where he could be “alone with his thoughts” to clear his head at agency HQ. Now it seems those profiles may not have been accidental. They may’ve been pre-emptive strikes to inoculate the boss in the face of impending bad news.