'Tannenbaum case had grave failures'

JPost.com Staff - The Jerusalem Post - July 3, 2005

Outgoing state Comptroller Eliezer Goldberg harshly criticized security officials for not informing the IDF that Hizbullah prisoner Elhanan Tannenbaum had access to classified military secrets, according to a classified report released Sunday afternoon.

Both Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz's office, and that of the Defense Ministry's director-general, deflected the criticism, saying that the comptroller's comments were directed primarily at the IDF and the Israeli Security Agency (Shin Bet) and its operations. The matter, therefore, was in the hands of the Prime Minister's Office, they said.

In the report Goldberg said that a security body had concealed information from the IDF which should have prevented Tannenbaum from being appointed to a position with access to classified information.

Former IDF colonel Elhanan Tannenbaum, was returned to Israel in January 2004 after being held for three years in a Lebanese prison, together with the bodies of three soldiers in exchange for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in addition to senior Hizbullah officials held in Israel.

Upon his return, Tannenbaum was investigated by a task force which decided he did not violate national security in the circumstances that brought him to Hizbullah and that he told the truth about the military information he passed on to the organization during his captivity.

The outgoing state comptroller's report criticized the security services for failing to reevaluate Tannenbaum's security clearance since the late 1960s, Army Radio quoted the report.

"The captive knew top-secret military information," Goldberg wrote, "at a time when very negative reports were piling up against him - long before his kidnapping."

On the other hand, the report gave a favorable evaluation of the decision-making process that led to the prisoner exchange with Hizbullah in which Tannenbaum and the bodies of three kidnapped Israeli soldiers were returned to Israel in January of 2004 in exchange for the release of hundreds of prisoners from Israeli prisons, including Sheikhs Dirani and Ubeid.

According to the comptroller's report, the decision-making process was conducted properly at the political level.