Israeli soldiers who served at one of the country’s most secretive bases have set up a group on the social networking site Facebook, in what has been called a serious security breach. The page allows veterans of the base to upload photos and videos of their shared experiences, and has attracted 265 members.
To see content, and the list of members, a visitor must
request to join the group and be approved by its administrators. However the group itself, which is advertised using
the Hebrew expression “There are things hidden from us, which we will
never know or understand," is accessible to anyone surfing the web.
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“Give respect,” the group’s description reads. “The group
highest quality enlisted folks on Facebook.”
A reporter for the daily Yedioth
Aharonot was accepted to the group without his identity being
cross checked against a list of soldiers connected with the base. He
copied a number of the posts on the group’s wall.
“Guys, we were privileged to get to be in this fantastic place,” wrote
one member. “Keep in touch and protect the secret.”
“Whomever didn’t experience this place missed out a lot in his life,
that’s for sure,” wrote another.
While the participants uploaded many photos of themselves inside the
base, potentially damaging photos of soldiers doing sensitive work was
not found on the group’s Facebook page and several members posted
reminders on the group’s wall not to upload sensitive material.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, an
Israeli soldier intimately involved in the army’s cyber operations said
the group is one example of many serious security breaches by Israeli
soldiers in online social networks.
“It’s a security failure and they made a big mistake,” the soldier told
The Media Line. “There is a reason why this base is a secret and this
will undoubtedly cause harm, allowing Israel’s enemies to get important
information and use it to attack Israel.”
“Not only did they set up a group,” the source said, “they setup the
group publicly, rather than by invitation only.”
Facebook groups can be public, in which anyone can join; by request, in
which the group is publicly advertised and anyone can request
membership; or private, in which the group’s existence is hidden from
the public and members are privately invited by the group’s
“Beyond national security, it is also a safety issue,” the source
continued. “In the past Hizbullah operatives would set up a profile
pretending to be an Israeli woman and ask to be friends with soldiers or
join soldiers’ groups on Facebook. Over time through the status updates
Hizbullah learned a bit about the soldiers, where they lived and were
able to connect the dots. In theory, they could eventually kidnap that
“It’s a significant problem for the Israeli Defense Forces because they
have cellphones and any of them can take a photo or make a film and
upload it to the Internet,” they said. “Soldiers themselves don’t really
know what can cause harm. For example, a soldier might think that a
simple photo of a room inside a base is harmless, but there is a poster
on the wall with a map or operational details.”
“We cannot censor every picture or video that a soldier uploads,” they
concluded. “So the only solution is education and awareness.”
It is not clear whether the Facebook group violates the security
regulations incumbent upon soldiers at the base, who are forbidden from
passing on information about anything seen or heard on the site. On the
one hand the Facebook group’s contents, as well as the names of its 265
members, are not publicly visible. On the other, such data has been
stored on a private company’s server, in theory much easier to breach
than the army’s data systems.
“There is a policy that outlines what can and cannot be uploaded,” Amir
Rappaport, a military analyst at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic
Studies at Israel's Bar Ilan University told The Media Line. “It is not
forbidden for soldiers to be on Facebook, but soldiers are forbidden
from uploading any material with information of military importance, and
they are punished here and there for doing it.”
“The reality is that you can go on Facebook and find pictures of almost
any base in the country, including the Kirya,” he said, referring to the
Israeli army’s headquarters in Tel Aviv. “So this is a problem that the
army is very aware of and has a hard time dealing with, but they are
trying to find a solution.”
“In this case, it’s quite foolish what they did,” he continued. “These
are soldiers who are meant to be a bit more aware of the issue of
Soldiers from Sayeret 13, the unit that was involved in the Israeli
assault on the Gaza-bound flotilla, were recently ordered to close
their Facebook accounts.
Israeli military intelligence officers faced a similar fate earlier this
year after a Hizbullah operative was found to have befriended them
under a false identity.
“The army has very strict instructions vis-a-vis what a soldier can and
cannot say in public or on a social network,” Matan Shani, an Israeli
Information Security Expert at Power Communications told The Media Line.
“Soldiers who upload pictures to Facebook are as long as there is no
damage or information that could be used as a military tool.”
“If any journalist can just get into this group, it’s a serious problem
and I would like to believe that the army is looking into this,” he
said. “The central issue is that the users of such networks need to be
educated as to their potential damage.”
The Israeli Army, as well as the
Israeli Military Police, did not return a request for comment on this
article. It was, however, heavily censored by Israeli military censors,
which require journalists writing stories from within the borders of
Israel to pass articles by them. Israeli censors do not allow us to
print the name or location of the site in question, nor to describe the
role and scope of the base within the Israeli army.