The defense establishment has “worrying” defects in its investigations and training of its intelligence personnel, a state comptroller report published Monday said.
Also, there are problems with the IDF’s oversight and enforcement against illegal building by both Palestinians and Israelis in the West Bank.
The report revealed a major battle from 2012-2015 between former military advocate- general Maj.-Gen. (res.) Danny Efroni and other generals along with IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Moti Almoz.
The battle was over how much classified information on operational investigations should be publicly disclosed and when could initial information be disclosed despite an ongoing investigation.
In January 2012, Efroni harshly slammed as illegal an order given by then-OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrahi that was supposed to guide the IDF in disclosing information regarding an incident in which a civilian was killed by the IDF during a protest.
Mizrahi’s order was that “we cannot have a situation that we do not officially respond to publications in the media that are slandering our forces in a manner that contradicts the facts that are arising from the investigation.”
In that light, Mizrahi continued that in such cases there should be a “meeting with journalists and they should be presented with the investigation details as they stand.”
Efroni said the order was illegal since there is a prohibition on giving details of an ongoing investigation to the media.
In August 2013, Efroni wrote to the Spokesman’s Unit, then-chief of staff Lt.-Gen.
(res.) Benny Gantz, the deputy chief of staff, the army’s head of operations and others that the spokesman had violated rules against disclosing details from an ongoing investigation numerous times.
He went on to say that in some cases, revealing these details could “obstruct the investigation and harm the ability to get to the truth.”
The former MAG suggested that in instances where a special event occurs with extra media attention, the IDF spokesman will only respond with information gathered in real-time from the field, and not use information later gathered as part of the legal investigation.
In May 2014, the deputy head of the military’s legal division’s operational investigations told State Comptroller Joseph Shapira that the same problem had not been solved.
Then in January 2015, Almoz wrote to Shapira that he generally agreed with the army’s legal division’s position, and that going forward, information that was given to the media about investigations would be based solely on “a preliminary review” of the incident by the spokesman, without using any of the legal investigation details.
At the same time, Almoz said there is a “decisive public relations need” to get information out to the media since in such controversial incidents, whoever gets information out first can often control the narrative and news cycle of how the event is reported.
The report does not touch on the 2014 Gaza war investigations.
The comptroller is expected to publish a separate report in the next six to 12 months on how well the army complied with international law during Operation Protective Edge.
The report also faulted the IDF for not investing enough in widely disseminating lessons learned from training and safety incidents where soldiers were hurt to avoid repetition of those incidents.
In fact, the IDF found that in many instances, once an investigation of a new safety incident began, the investigators immediately found records of a similar prior incident, but found that the details of the prior incident had not been disseminated.
In addition, the report found that though senior officers performed high quality investigations, junior officers often performed lower quality investigations, appearing not to understand their role.
In the most glaring example of failure to learn from past operational and safety issues, Shapira quotes Brig.-Gen. Noam Tibon as writing in a 2012 internal IDF report that commanders had not internalized the lessons of instances of the capturing of soldiers, like in the case of Gilad Schalit.
Next, the state comptroller blasted the IDF for failing to stop illegal West Bank building both among settlers and Palestinians. This includes problems with regard to the registry and determination of property status in Area C, which calls into question the veracity of its declarations of state land. Such a determination is the basic foundation on which the entire process of legal Jewish building in Area C occurs. It also has diplomatic, economic and security implications, the report stated.
The 70-page account examined deficiencies with the Civil Administration regarding property rights that dated back to over a decade, including problems that arose from simple administrative issues such as lack of communication and data entry.
The comptroller called on the offices of the prime minister and the defense minister to intervene to ensure the issues it raised were promptly addressed.
Moving on to criticism of the IDF’s training of its intelligence personnel, Shapira said the curriculum for training is weak in some areas, does not set benchmarks for measuring success and is not sufficiently standardized.
Looking at the period of July 2014-June 2015, the report notes that all trainees learn about computers, electronics, Arabic, information security, translations, analyses and eavesdropping, while many more topics can be covered in later advanced courses.
Out of 12 major topics covered in intelligence training, only five have full written approaches to teaching and conceptualizing the topic being taught.
Further, intelligence training for different arms of the IDF is not coordinated in a way to optimize the various arms of intelligence working together.
Shapira also criticized the army’s intelligence school for having more officers than what its budget allows for.
In response to the report, the military said it “continues to internalize among commanders the principles connected with investigations being classified and the importance of enforcing them in order to preserve investigations as an effective tool that allows an open forum without concern of being brought to trial… and to learn lessons.”
Further, the IDF said that in late 2014 and early 2015, it widely disseminated lessons learned about safety and operational issues, including relating to the 2014 Gaza war.
Regarding West Bank building violations, the unit of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories said it had begun to implement the recommendations in the report.