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Top Israeli spy head leaves identity exposed in online ‘embarrassing’ security lapse: Report

Image by The Guardian

The chief of Israel’s Unit 8200, which is the Intelligence Corps unit of the occupying regime’s military, has left his true identity exposed in an online “embarrassing security lapse”, The Guardian reveals.

In a report published on Friday, the British newspaper said that Yossi Sariel was just recently unmasked as head of Israel’s secretive Unit 8200 and architect of artificial intelligence (AI) strategy after a 2021 book written under a pen name revealed his Google account.

According to the daily, Sariel, who occupies one of the most sensitive roles in the military, spent more than two decades operating in the shadows but left his identity exposed online due to a recent security oversight.

“The embarrassing security lapse is linked to a book he published on Amazon, which left a digital trail to a private Google account created in his name, along with his unique ID and links to the account’s maps and calendar profiles,” The Guardian said.

Unit 8200, as the largest unit in the Israeli army, is in charge of carrying out clandestine operations, collecting signal intelligence (SIGINT) and code decryption, counterintelligence, cyber warfare, military intelligence, and surveillance.

Citing multiple sources, The Guardian stressed that Sariel is the secret author of “The Human Machine Team”, explaining that the book offers a radical vision for how artificial intelligence can dramatically alter the relationship between military personnel and machines.

It went on to say that the pen name Sariel used for his book was composed of his initials, Brigadier General YS, which provided a blueprint for the advanced AI-powered systems that the Israeli military have been pioneering during the six-month war in the besieged Gaza Strip.

Late Friday, the Israeli military was forced to release a statement to the Israeli media admitting that the book’s exposure of Sariel’s personal details was “a mistake”, adding, “The issue will be examined to prevent the recurrence of similar cases in the future.”

Unit 8200 was once highly revered within Israel and beyond for its intelligence capabilities that rivaled those of the US National Security Agency (NSA) and the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).

However, the unit came under fire for its failure to foresee and prevent a historic and humiliating operation by the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas on October 7 last year against the usurping entity in retaliation for the regime’s intensified atrocities against the Palestinian people.

Critics argue that Unit 8200’s emphasis on “technological hubris” may have come at the expense of traditional intelligence-gathering methods, leaving critical vulnerabilities exposed. 

In its war against the Gaza Strip, the Israeli military “appears to have fully embraced Sariel’s vision of the future, in which military technology represents a new frontier where AI is being used to fulfill increasingly complex tasks on the battlefield,” The Guardian added.

“There is a human bottleneck for both locating the new targets and decision-making to approve the targets. There is also the bottleneck of how to process a great amount of data. Then there is the bottleneck of connecting the intelligence to the fire. A team consisting of machines and investigators can blast the bottleneck wide open,” Sariel argued in his book.

Since the onset of Israel’s brutal war on Gaza, at least 33,091 people have been killed in the Palestinian enclave, with 75,750 others injured, mostly women and children.

Tel Aviv has also blocked water, food, and electricity to Gaza, plunging the coastal strip into a humanitarian crisis.

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