'Harpaz offered to spy on Defense Minister Barak'

State Comptroller Report describes a deteriorating relationship between two most important figures in the defense community.

Harpaz 311 (photo credit: Channel 10)
Harpaz 311
(photo credit: Channel 10)
The State Comptroller’s Report on the Harpaz document affair released on Sunday sets out an account of a former intelligence figure who makes a disturbing offer to spy on the defense minister, and whose offer is ultimately accepted by an aide to the IDF chief of staff.
It is a story filled with intrigue, and revolves around a deteriorating relationship between the two most important figures in the defense community at the time, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi.
As rumors flew around about the ill-intentions of one camp toward the other, in stepped Lt.-Col. (res.) Boaz Harpaz, a retired mid-ranking Military Intelligence figure who had previously been accused of leaking confidential information and whose career came to a rather abrupt end in 2004.
Yet, long after he left the army, the State Comptroller’s Report notes, Harpaz and officers in key positions in Military Intelligence maintained ties.
Senior intelligence officers viewed Harpaz as a well-connected and talented man, and turned to him for consultations on matters such as changes in intelligence units. In the process, Harpaz was given access to classified information.
“These consultations occurred without permission,” the report notes, and despite an order issued in 2004 by then-Military Intelligence head Maj.-Gen.
Aharon Farkash to deny Harpaz access to sensitive and classified Military Intelligence areas. In 2009, then-Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin ordered all staff to refrain from sharing information with Harpaz.
The orders went unheeded, as several senior Military Intelligence figures went on meeting with Harpaz and consulted with him on various issues.
The State Comptroller’s Office has called on the IDF to fully address how the clearance system failed.
Following the appointment of Ashkenazi as IDF chief of staff in 2007, Harpaz was able to lead Military Intelligence staff into believing that he enjoyed a close social bond with him, the State Comptroller’s Report said.
A senior Military Intelligence commander testified that Harpaz sent him text messages with the words “I’m at his [office],” leading the commander to believe that Harpaz was with the chief of staff.
Harpaz also maintained links with sections in the Defense Ministry, the report said, noting ties he had in its Export Supervision Wing, Purchasing Administration and other areas.
In 2010, the director-general of the Defense Ministry, Udi Shani, ordered an investigation into his ministry’s interactions with Harpaz. The inquiry concluded that Harpaz received “preferential treatment, and [enjoyed] open doors to all heads of departments...”
The report criticized the ministry’s conduct as “problematic, strange and bizarre, in light of the fact that in every wing in which he operated, he received privileged treatment and a cutting of corners.”
The inquiry also found that the “aura which surrounds Harpaz... contributed to a blindness of those involved and led existing security checks to be neutralized.”
Shani ordered security to be tightened up and that certain regulations be changed. This included “tightening physical and computerized supervision on the floor [at the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv] of the minister of defense and the director-general, and... appropriate technological answers.”
The report notes that Ashkenazi and Harpaz first met in the early 1990s, in a professional capacity while fulfilling their respective army roles.
In 2006, when Harpaz launched an appeal against the termination of his army career, Ashkenazi testified on his behalf, and called on him to be reinstated.
Ronit Ashkenazi, the former chief of staff’s wife, told the state comptroller that her husband would speak with Harpaz whenever he wanted to “know something about someone, some officer. He wanted to know about everyone before he decided on an appointment...
And he consulted with Harpaz, among other people.”
According to the report, after 2006, ties between the two men faded, until the start of 2010, when Harpaz approached Ashkenazi to discuss worsening relations between Ashkenazi and the defense minister, Ehud Barak.
Harpaz told Ashkenazi that he had information about Barak’s conduct toward Ashkenazi.
At this stage, relations between Barak and Ashkenazi deteriorated to the point of serious crisis, and there was a mutual lack of trust between them.
Harpaz told Ashkenazi about rumors on “things they want to do,” and mentioned “some sort of paper, a plan showing an intent to harm Ashkenazi.”
Ashkenazi referred Harpaz to his aide Col. Erez Viner.
Viner maintains that he listened to Harpaz’s claims, but took no action, telling him that if there was proof, it should be sent to law enforcement.
At the same time, according to the report, Viner became disturbed that Harpaz was privy to insider information about the goings-on at the Defense Ministry.
“He made predictions that were proven correct time and again,” Viner later told the state comptroller.
Viner came to believe that Harpaz “does in fact have access to relevant information that can assist the chief of staff’s bureau, to prevent surprises and prevent harm to the chief of staff’s ability to function,” he told the comptroller.
Between February and August 2010, the report notes, 7 percent of all phone conversations held by Viner were with Harpaz.
“Viner was in touch with Harpaz mainly in order to gather information on the conduct of Barak and his surroundings, as well as on Barak’s chief of special staff,” the report said. “In addition, Viner cooperated with Harpaz in collecting information of a slanderous nature, which Harpaz gathered on Barak and his surroundings,” it added.
Harpaz was the main initiator, but Viner cooperated, the report argued. “He [Viner] received information, and didn’t demand that Harpaz cease bringing the information.
Sometimes, the opposite happened – Viner passed on the information and encouraged [Harpaz] to collect more,” it stated.
In one phone conversation, Viner asked Harpaz to find out if senior members of Barak’s bureau were flying business class on a trip to the US, after members of Ashkenazi’s staff were barred from doing so.
Viner later defended the episode by saying that he was trying to enable a senior army officer join the chief of staff on a flight.
The state comptroller criticizes Viner for failing to clarify what Harpaz meant when, in another phone exchange, he mentioned taking steps against Barak. “Viner should have clarified what Harpaz meant, and opposed it,” the report said.
“In another conversation, Harpaz offered to get hold of a document through improper ways, and Viner encourages him to do so,” it added.
“In another conversation, Viner asked Harpaz to get more documents that would shed light on Barak’s conduct. This constitutes an active step to gather information on the conduct of Barak’s surroundings, through Harpaz,” the report said.
The report said Ashkenazi had responsibility for Viner’s activities vis-a-vis Harpaz, even he was not fully aware of the details.