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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Classified IDF photos on Facebook?

JPost is reporting this morning that they have found 'dozens, perhaps hundreds' of classified IDF photos on Facebook. Based on the pictures that they put on the front page of the print edition (one of which, at least at the moment, graces their home page and another of which graces the article), it looks like they are mostly pictures of IDF soldiers mugging for the camera with no malicious intent or harmful results. The Post says that the IDF is planning to prosecute the soldiers in question. Unless there are actual photos that endanger national security, I believe that's a waste of IDF resources regardless of the legalities. Yes, we all know you're not supposed to photograph IDF bases, but most IDF soldiers carry cell phones with built-in cameras in 2008, and it's more important to impress upon them the need not to photograph things that are really secret than to play pedantic with the rules. Here's more.
The Jerusalem Post has found several dozen photographs, posted by former and currently serving IDF soldiers that show the interiors and exteriors of army bases, IAF air traffic control towers and their electronic equipment, weapons systems on navy vessels, types and amounts of weapons used by infantry battalions. Also shown are names and numbers of infantry and reconnaissance units, infantry training grounds and fighting formations, undercover forces training, and much more.

The Post has decided to publish only a very small fraction of the photographs it has found - and only those whose content is relatively banal. Contacted by the Post over the weekend, the Defense Ministry said it was well aware of the serious threat to national security that was represented by the indiscriminate publication of photographs and other materials by soldiers on social network Web sites.

The Defense Ministry told the Post on Friday that anyone caught posting classified materials onto the Internet would be court-martialed. The ministry said it had no information indicating that foreign intelligence services and terrorist groups were making use of the plethora of photographs and information on Facebook to gather intelligence on the IDF. But sources within the IDF confirmed that the army was racing against time to track down and remove classified information from the popular site.

Several months ago, a special IDF unit began scouring Facebook for any signs of Israeli military photographs, maps and text. What the unit found sent shockwaves through the defense establishment: Current and former Israeli soldiers had posted photographs of themselves inside submarines and command and control bunkers, practicing with special weapons, showing off communications equipment and showboating next to air force planes.

Many soldiers had posted the names of their units and where they were currently stationed. So great was the shock that an order was issued from the highest levels of the Defense Ministry to every member of Israel's security services, including the IDF, navy, IAF, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), the ministry itself and others to be extremely cautious with what they upload to Facebook and other social networking sites, as well as in their personal blogs.
But here's the bottom line:
The problem with Facebook, a ministry representative said, was that it was entirely open to anyone and extremely difficult to monitor and control. The control would have to come from the soldiers themselves, the spokesman said.

The ministry has realized it cannot search the profiles of each IDF soldier on Facebook - there are hundreds of thousands of Israelis with accounts - for signs of classified materials, so it has issued a stern written and verbal warning to soldiers to be more careful.
Read the whole thing. And to those of you in elite IDF units: You're supposed to be the best and the brightest. Please exercise discretion. We're all proud of you without the showboating.


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