To have one laptop stolen might be considered a misfortune, but to have two stolen could look like carelessness, especially when you are the head of Israel’s nuclear program.
News of the theft from Shaul Horev’s family home in Beit Yitzhak was kept from the Israeli public on Monday by a military censor and a gagging order requested by the police.
The gag was partially lifted on Tuesday with a statement from Horev’s office confirming he had been the victim of a burglary.
His wallet, a “communication device” and various documents were also reported to have been taken.
As head of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), Horev is in charge of Israel’s nuclear policy and answers directly to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
He has the highest-level security clearance, allowing him free access to Israel’s most tightly guarded secrets, including Mossad intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program.
The AEC’s statement said there was no sensitive material on the stolen computer.
It is the second time a laptop has been stolen from Horev since he took over at the AEC.
He has bodyguards, and the home he shares with his wife and two daughters is monitored by CCTV, but unlike government ministers he does not have additional home security.
Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported police observations of the crime scene.
“His home did not appear ransacked as would be expected in a criminal break-in,” it said. “Also, in the previous break-in a computer was stolen, about which it’s not known whether it was merely for his personal or business or included data he used in his work.”
The blogger Richard Silverstein pointed out the irony that Israel had previously claimed to have obtained secrets about Iran’s nuclear program from a stolen laptop which it used as evidence of Iran’s ambitions for nuclear weapons — claims now widely believed to be untrue.
Matthew Fuhrmann, a Stanton nuclear security fellow, suggested Horev may have been the victim of espionage.
“International agencies frequently try to steal information from phones and laptops, particularly from the hotel rooms of officials while they are traveling abroad. Israel in particular is known to have done this,” he said.