An employee of Israel’s Negev Nuclear Research Center is being sacked from his post after connecting a USB flash drive to a work computer – used for highly classified information – some 14 times, a disciplinary tribunal ruled.
A Civil Service commission passed the ruling after the employee reportedly downloaded a series of academic articles to his colleague’s computer. He then connected his USB flash drive to the machine, used it to copy the articles to his own computer, and then connected the USB to his home machine.
“The severity of his actions must not be underestimated,” stated disciplinary court judges, Haaretz reported Thursday. He was banned from working as a civil servant for a 10-month period and admonished by his employers, as well as being fired from his current post. The ruling was made last month.
Judges also said that the actions of the researcher, who holds a PhD in chemistry, undermined the conventions that apply to every single employee of the defense establishment or those working with classified information. The claims filed last October stated that the employee had been perfectly aware that his actions were not permitted.
“The leaking of the most highly classified information to foreign and hostile groups is liable to pose a serious threat to national security,” they said, adding that “only this disciplinary measure will fulfill the preventive and deterrent purpose of the disciplinary court.”
The judges also went on to say that, considering the severity of the employee's actions, they had no choice but to terminate his employment at the center. "Only this disciplinary measure will fulfill the preventive and deterrent purpose of the disciplinary court," they wrote.
However, after the researcher’s 10-month dismissal, there remains a possibility that the employee could be reinstated at the same nuclear research center.
The chemist challenged the decision in a Jerusalem court. However, they rejected his appeal and insisted the ban be implemented immediately.
Information surrounding the Israeli nuclear installation, located in the Negev desert, is generally highly classified. However, it is generally believed that it is used for the manufacturing of nuclear weapons, according to media speculations. Plutonium is thought to be produced in a reactor housed at the base, and an adjoining below-ground reprocessing plant is used to separate plutonium from reactor fuel, according to an International Panel on Fissile Materials report released in October 2013.
However, Israel has never admitted the production of nuclear weapons, but they do not deny it.