Censor: IDF treated war info like routine operation

IDF Censor chief told Winograd instructions during war were unclear, slams briefings, interviews.

returning from war (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
returning from war
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
IDF officers did not understand that during wartime, it is detrimental to pass on sensitive information to reporters, chief Military Censor Col. Sima Vaknin told the Winograd Committee in a testimony released on Monday. Following the Second Lebanon War in 2006, the military censorship came under harsh criticism from within and outside the IDF for allegedly permitting the publication of sensitive operational information, such as troop movements and deployment. In total, Vaknin said, the censorship had only 28 staff members, who needed to work with dozens of newspapers, radio stations, TV channels and Internet sites. "I think that in a way, they [senior officers] did not exactly understand that we were in the middle of a war, and they continued to brief reporters as if we were in the middle of a routine operation in Gaza," Vaknin said. "During a war, ambiguity is our strength... here, we lost it." Vaknin, who was appointed chief censor in August 2005 after Brig.-Gen. Miri Regev was appointed IDF spokeswoman, said that despite all the difficulties she encountered during the war, her office had succeeded in keeping the most sensitive information hidden from the public. "But the more simple information of where the Paratroopers or Golani Brigade are deployed are things that came out of IDF briefings to journalists, and even maps that were distributed," Vaknin said. She added that information she would have censored had been revealed by IDF generals during the daily press briefings conducted throughout the first two weeks of the war. "This could have been handled better," she said. "I personally thought that they should have taken four people [and trained them how to give the briefings]... and then turned it into something more institutionalized." Vaknin said that there had been 1,300 foreign journalists in Israel during the war and that while she had briefed some of them on the various censorship restrictions, the majority of them had not been under her radar. "Can I say that the censor knows how to work with the foreign press?" she asked. "The answer is definitely no. I don't have the ability. To tell the truth, I don't even have enough televisions to see everything simultaneously, and I needed to call people at home and ask them to sit and watch Sky News [and] Fox News and to call if there was a problem."