Israeli PM's former aide quits after leaking classified info

11:08, May 19, 2011      

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Uri Arad, the former national security advisor for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, recently tendered his resignation after an investigation determined that he had leaked, most likely inadvertently, classified information, Israel's Channel 10 television revealed late Tuesday.

Arad, a Netanyahu confidant, announced in March that he was stepping down as head of the National Security Council, citing his desire to return to academia. Netanyahu's plan to appoint him ambassador to London had previously been thwarted by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, in a public spat over political turf.

But the resignation, according to local media reports, was tendered in the wake of an investigation led by Israel's Shin Bet security agency, which suspected Arad as the source of a leak of sensitive security details.

The information, published last July by one of the country's largest dailies, had most likely concerned negotiations with the Kremlin meant to prevent the sale of advanced Russian-made missiles to Syria.

According to the Channel 10 report, the leak was an unintentional slip of the tongue during a background briefing with a journalist.

The publication is said to had severely impacted Israel's relations with one of its allies, as well as Russia.

Netanyahu, furious at the leak, ordered the Shin Bet to track down its source. Over the course of several months, senior officials at the Prime Minister's Bureau, including Netanyahu's military attache, media adviser, cabinet secretary, senior aides and Arad himself, were required to undergo a polygraph test.

The Shin Bet initially cleared all of Netanyahu's staff of any wrongdoing, but continued investigating on its own. New evidence obtained by the agency several weeks later pointed to Arad as the source.

Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin, who officially stepped down earlier this week, personally informed Netanyahu of the findings and ordered Arad's security clearance downgraded.

Criminal proceedings in the matter were never launched, after the Attorney-General's office reached a settlement with Arad that he would not stand trial. Instead, the former head of the Mossad's research division would announce his resignation.

The Justice Ministry on Tuesday confirmed Arad's forced resignation, saying that he had taken responsibility for the leak, though denying it was intentional.

The Prime Minister's Bureau declined to comment on the report, saying it did not address internal investigations "even when reports are incorrect and riddled with inaccuracies."

"Arad asked to leave his post after serving in it for two years. The prime minister accepted his resignation and noted his important contribution to the country's security," said a statement issued by the Prime Minister's Bureau on Tuesday.

Earlier, Israeli daily Yedioth Aharonot reported that Arad had accompanied his successor, Ya'akov Amidror, on a recent visit to Washington in order to complete a hand-over of responsibilities.

The visit was reportedly intended to prepare the ground for Netanyahu's speech in the U.S. Congress next Tuesday, and included meetings with senior White House officials, including National Security Advisor Tom Donilon.

Source: Xinhua
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