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Copyright 2004 Jerusalem Post
February 1

HEADLINE: Tannenbaum faces interrogation today


Shin Bet interrogators will begin the arduous task Sunday of uncovering exactly what sensitive information businessman Elhanan Tannenbaum, a former reserve IDF colonel, revealed to the Hizbullah during three years in captivity.

While no indictment has yet been issued, Tannenbaum - repatriated Thursday in a massive prisoner swap with Hizbullah - is suspected of breaking a number of laws. He has both violated the criminal code and leaked secrets that jeopardize state security, security sources said Saturday night.

In some ways Tannenbaum's time back in Israel has differed little from his time in Lebanon, where a race was on to extract whatever information possible from the man Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah called a "Colonel in the Mossad."

Minutes after stepping off the plane at the end of the prisoner exchange, Tannenbaum was packed off to the medical facility at the Tzrifin army base near Tel Aviv. He was granted a brief visit from his family followed by a short meeting with his lawyers, Roi Belcher and Eli Zohar.

After completing a series of medical checks and examinations, Tannenbaum was handed over to the police and the Shin Bet who drove him to the Meurim police complex near Netanya.

There he will undergo extensive questioning at the hands of the police's Serious and International Crimes Unit and the Shin Bet, while receiving any additional medical attention he might require, said the Prime Minister's Office.

The Petah Tikva District Court slapped a gag order on the details of Tannenbaum's interrogation, two months after a similar ban in the Tel Aviv District Court was lifted. "The gag order will last until we know exactly what he knew and told Hizbullah," said a government source Saturday night.

What is clear, said former head of the Mossad MK Danny Yatom (Labor), is that "Tannenbaum knew many things. They might not be the state's biggest secrets but they are certainly things that every enemy wants to know." And it is clear, added Yatom, that whatever Tannenbaum knew, Hizbullah now knows. It follows that what Hizbullah knows has been passed on to the Syrians and the Iranians, he said.

While Tannenbaum appeared in astonishingly good health during an interview with the Hizbullah-run Al Manar satellite station in Lebanon, his medical examinations by a neurologist, psychologists, internal specialists, and others over the weekend revealed a much frailer man.

Hizbullah apparently used steroids to fatten him up and boost his appearance of health in recent days, according security sources with access to Tannenbaum. As might be expected of a man who spent over three years in Hizbullah captivity, Tannenbaum appears to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, and near complete disorientation, said the source.

"He walked strange, and seemed to know very little of where he was and what was happening," said the source, who had been part of the delegation that took custody of Tannenbaum upon his repatriation. For instance, said the source, Tannenbaum did not know about the September 11 attacks, about the three kidnapped soldiers brought back with him, or that Ariel Sharon had been elected prime minister.

"He was in a time warp," said the source.

Many were shocked that Tannenbaum seemed much healthier than suspicious statements accredited to "the German mediators" indicated. Among the rumors were that his interrogators had knocked all of Tannenbaum's teeth out.

Others stated that his health had so deteriorated as to be near death.

Yatom added that Tannenbaum might have been drugged to look worse by the Syrians in order that the information be relayed to Israel. The effect would be to ratchet up the pressure to go through with the deal.

Another possibility is an intelligence mix up, he said.

Other POWs, freed in prisoner exchanges with Syria and Egypt following the 1973 Yom Kippur War, told The Jerusalem Post, that after three years a man will tell his interrogator anything he wants to know.

However, one of these former POWs, Yoel Ben-David, founder of the Awake at Night association for former POWs, said that often the rough treatment once home can further damage those repatriated. "You don't expect your interrogator to be nice, but when it happens in your home country, it becomes something you cannot accept."

Like many soldiers who returned from Syria - and like Tannenbaum - Ben-David was subjected to a month of "debriefing" that seemed to him more like interrogation. "We were quarantined. They did not beat us, but they humiliated us. They did not allow us to travel abroad for some time, they monitored every movement."

Unfortunately, said Ben-David, who was careful to note that the difference between soldiers sent into enemy territory to fight and a man like Tannenbaum is immense, "there is still a lot of people out there who believe that it would be better if a man came back in a coffin rather than falling into captivity."

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