Suspected of recklessly endangering soldiers’ lives, and attempting to instigate cover up.
The IDF’s JAG has ordered the Criminal Investigation Unit of the Military Police (Metzah) to open an investigation against several senior Aman (Intelligence Corps) commanders suspected of knowingly exposing their subordinates to major health hazards and instigating a systematic cover-up.
Senior Medical and JAG sources say the behavior of the Intelligence Corps involved in the affairs is inexcusable and amounts to gross insubordination, criminal negligence and willful indifference to human life.
The affair goes back to 1998, when the OC Medical Corps issued a blanket order to all units to immediately replace asbestos boards known as Pikel boards, wherever they were still in use, because they constituted a major health hazard, exposing personnel to known carcinogens and other major health hazards.
Pikel boards are especially common at Intelligence Corps bases, where they are used to pin up maps. This is particularly hazardous, because small microscopic amounts of asbestos dust are released into the face of anyone either attaching a map to the board with a drawing pin or staple or removing it.
However, until the middle of 2002, the Intelligence Corps chose to willfully ignore the order to remove the boards, Senior officers aware of the danger covered it up, and took no measures whatsoever to protect the troops under their command from coming into contact with the hazardous material.
In some bases personnel aware of the dangers of asbestos tried to remove the boards by themselves, but as they lacked the proper training and equipment all they did was to increase their exposure to the asbestos dust.
In 2002 Intelligence Corps soldiers, aware of the dangers of asbestos decided to take matters into their own hands after their appeals to their superiors to solve the problem fell on deaf ears. They filed complaints to the JAG corps and the IDF Ombudsman.
An investigating committee was set up by the deputy CoS. The head of the committee was Brig. General Amnon Sofrin, commander of Aman’s counterintelligence and field security unit (Bitahon Sadeh). It also included another Aman officer and Lt. Col. Dr. Kobi Haviv from the Medical Corps.
It soon became apparent to Dr. Haviv that the committee had assumed the role of a fox guarding the henhouse. Instead of rectifying the situation, the committee sought to bury it. As two of the three members were Aman officers, they railroaded through a whitewash and threatened Lt. Col Haviv in order to intimidate him and prevent him from blowing the whistle.
Undeterred, Dr. Haviv presented his minority findings to the JAG. Corps. The Deputy JAG held a hearing, in which all the details of the affair came to light.
As a result of Aman’s attempt to cover up the affair, and especially in light of the attempts by Aman personnel to threaten and intimidate Lt. Col. Dr. Haviv, the Deputy JAG has ordered a full JAG inquiry,OC JAG Corps Maj. General Menahem Finkelstein has said he intends to ensure the affair is exhaustively investigated and has ordered Metzah’s top investigation unit to instigate a full criminal investigation of the suspicions against the Intelligence Corps officers involved. These include criminal negligence, blackmail, subverting military justice, gross insubordination and conduct unbecoming an officer.
Military sources are comparing the affair to the Nahal Kishon scandal, in which the navy deliberately and recklessly endangered the lives of its SEALS by conducting drills and diving exercises in waters heavily polluted with extremely hazardous industrial waste. Many of the men contracted cancer and had to sue the IDF for damages after the Navy and Defense ministry attempted to cover up the affair and denied them and their families any benefits, claiming there was no proof the cancer was connected to their having dived frequently in the polluted waters.
The IDF spokesperson said, “OC Jag Corps has initiated an MP investigation, which is currently underway”.